Connor McCallum

Essential Oils Only Work if You’re Essentially Broken: Study

According to the minds of science, essential oils only grant the user great effect if they’re literally unable to process falsehoods.

 

Essential oils are found in perfumes, creams and body washes, are used in massages and aromatherapy, and do their part to keep the economy churning, generating billions of dollars annually. However, when it comes to the treatment of ailments or as a way of enhancing one’s mood, essential oils are essentially snake oil products.

Extracted from plants, these products are increasingly accompanied by overt medicinal claims that repeatedly land their distributors in hot water.

According to a new study, those who tend to mistake the meaningless for the profound (i.e., fall prey to bullshit) are at a high risk of putting an overzealous amount of faith into essential oils.

While it is noted that the sample size of 1,202 participants recruited through both Amazon Mechanical Turk and a college campus doesn’t exactly render this study concluding evidence, it is enough to suggest that the same indicators might be found in the population at large.

The researchers reported that the tendency to be captivated by fabricated or empty rhetoric was found to be prevalent among those willing and currently dabbling in essential oil use.

“We found that receptivity to pseudo-profound fabricated statements and religiosity were the most consistent predictors of greater use of, perceived effectiveness of, and a willingness to spend more money on [essential oils] EOs,” write the researchers in their study.

The researchers tracked attitudes towards essential oils in comparison with three things: the big five personality traits; “bullshit receptivity” (BSR – being drawn in by “something that is designed to impress but was constructed without concern for the truth”); and the need for cognition, a personality variable reflecting the extent to which one is inclined towards effortful cognitive activities.

 

The study implies that those less able to spot and recognize bullshit are more inclined to believe the supposed benefits and fixes essential oils provide, even if the essential oil in question isn’t specifically marketed to do so.

 

“We were more interested in who is the typical consumer of essential oils. Who thinks that they are most beneficial? And who spends the most money on them? To our surprise, no studies had really looked at these factors,” lead researcher William Chopik, an assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University told PsyPost.

66 percent of the respondents used essential oils, with women making up the greater fraction of the percentage. While there was no outstanding correlation between the big five personality traits or the need for cognition and essential oil use, there did exist one with bullshit receptivity: those with a high BSR were 70 percent more likely to use essential oils and find them to be effective.

For reference, one of the sample statements used to catch out a participant’s BSR was: “as you self-actualize, you will enter into infinite empathy that transcends understanding.”

The study implies that those less able to spot and recognize bullshit are more inclined to believe the supposed benefits and fixes essential oils provide, even if the essential oil in question isn’t specifically marketed to do so.

“We’re not exactly sure why people who are receptive to bullshit are more likely to use essential oils. On one hand, they could be naively taking the claims essential oil companies make at face value. On another hand, perhaps they trick themselves into actually perceiving benefits (or maybe they unconsciously do so),” Chopik added.

The answer is worth pursuing, given the huge and only growing popularity of essential oils use and the dire health risks they pose.

 

 

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