John Petrocelli
Experimental Social Psychologist

Dr. John V. Petrocelli is an experimental social psychologist who researches, writes, and speaks about the science of communication and decision making.  He is a Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University, teaching social psychology and judgment and decision making.  He is the Director of the Bullshit Studies Lab in the Department of Psychology, at Wake Forest University. John is also an Advisory Board Member of Seekr internet technology company.

Research Contributions and Speaking Engagements

Dr. John Petrocelli is the author of The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit.  His research examines the causes and consequences of bullshit and bullshitting to better understand and improve bullshit detection and disposal.  Dr. Petrocelli’s research contributions also include attitudes and persuasion and the intersections of counterfactual thinking with learning, memory and decision making.  His research and writings have been featured by the Wall Street Journal and in his popular TEDx Talk, Why BS is More Dangerous Than a Lie.  Dr. Petrocelli has delivered keynotes for Executive Forum, Financial Executives Networking Group of Charlotte, NC, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, The Food Industry Association, American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and CPA Society Executives Association and more.

In addition to his research and positions as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, he has authored over 50 papers in his field’s most prestigious journals, including the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, British Journal of Social Psychology, and Thinking and Reasoning.  He has received numerous awards for his teaching and research achievements.

Dr. John Petrocelli is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Psychological Science.  He was also elected to the highly selective Society for Experimental Social Psychology, and he is a fellow of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology.  He gives frequent invited addresses and speaks regularly at national conferences. John is available for speaking and consulting engagements, primarily in business, communication, leadership, and management.  He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from Indiana University.


Learn more about Dr. Petrocelli by visiting his website here.

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Expanding upon his viral TEDx Talk, psychology professor and social scientist John V. Petrocelli's The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit reveals the critical thinking habits you can develop to recognize and combat pervasive false information and delusional thinking that has become a common feature of everyday life.

NAVIGATING BULLSHIT IN THE WORKPLACE / THE LIFE-CHANGING SCIENCE OF DETECTING BULLSH*T From every angle, whether it be from colleagues, meetings, or the marketplace of business ideas, business leaders constantly encounter bullshit that plagues their judgments, beliefs, and decisions. Short of lying, the sources of bullshit pay no attention to truth, evidence, or established knowledge, and use a broad array of rhetorical strategies to sound like they know what they are talking about when their obligations to provide an opinion far exceed their actual knowledge. How informed can beliefs about anything—and decisions based on those beliefs—be if they are based on bullshit-reasoning and communication? How can bullshit in the workplace be better detected and disposed? This session directly addresses commonly encountered bullshit in the workplace and its unwanted effects in the ways of better detection, better disposal, and better decisions.

Key Learning Takeaways:
1. A better understanding of the conditions under which business leaders are most likely to encounter bullshit positions them to better detect, and dispose of, bullshit.
2. Better understandings of the consequences of bullshit, and the critical questions to ask suspecting bullshitters, facilitate optimal decision making in the workplace.
3. A better understanding of the many benefits of relying on evidence-based communication and reasoning positions business leaders to make better decisions from hiring to investments to marketing and mergers.

PROMOTING AN EVIDENCE-BASED CULTURE IN THE WORKPLACE What is bullshit and why is there so much of it? What effects does bullshit have on workplace communication and how can its unwanted effects be replaced by the many benefits of evidence-based communication? Apart from choosing to be smarter, there are critical benefits that, Dr. John Petrocelli suggests, our current way of thinking and communicating in the workplace often ignores. It’s time to stop the bullshit with better detection and better disposal of this insidious communicative substance.

Based on Dr. Petrocelli’s latest TEDx Talk, Why BS is More Dangerous Than a Lie, his own empirical research, and his new book, The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit, Dr. Petrocelli presents an eye-opening, groundbreaking, and evidenced-based tour of the causes, dysfunctions, and costs of bullshit, showing how it operates in our communicative culture and how you can make significantly better decisions in the workplace.

We’ve long assumed that bullshitting is a harmless social activity. Perhaps this is why it is such a common social activity. In fact, research shows there are over three dozen situations and reasons people bullshit in the workplace. However, social psychological research suggests we couldn’t be more wrong. Bullshit communications, at the expense of evidence-based communication, have devastating effects on beliefs about what is true, memory, attitudes and opinions, as well as judgment and decision making. Dr. Petrocelli explores causes of bullshitting, how to best detect bullshit in the workplace, how to properly dispose of it, and how best to replace bullshit reasoning and communication with its antithesis—evidence-based reasoning and communication.

THE ARTS AND SCIENCES OF PERSUASION AND INFLUENCE AT WORK Buy-ins on ideas and best practices does not occur on their own. Without buy-in from the team, any leader is just another tuned-out voice. That is why the single greatest ability that a leader can develop in the ways of selling a product, motivating a team, or growing a company is their ability to communicate persuasively.

Dr. John Petrocelli is an experimental social psychologist and an expert on attitudes and persuasion. In this talk based on his empirical research, Dr. Petrocelli takes the audience on a journey to understanding principles of influence and the best alpha and omega strategies of social influence proven to reduce resistance and improve persuasion.

In order for things to emerge as best practices within an organization you have to know the behavioral science in order to hone your messages properly and understand how these factors have the greatest impact, leading to the greatest persuasive success. Coming from someone who actually conducts empirical research on the topics of persuasion and influence, he’ll share simple strategies, based on scientific research and proven effective for how to maximize influence and inoculate the established influence from unwanted influences in the way of establishing and promoting best practices.

BEST PRACTICE DECISION MAKING THROUGH EVIDENCE-BASED MANAGEMENT Dr. John Petrocelli is an experimental social psychologist and an expert in judgment and decision making and one of the world’s foremost experts on evidence-based communication. He is a firm believer in the well-established belief that better information does not always lead to better judgment and decision making, but that better judgment and decision making almost always requires better information.

Clearly, reaching successful outcomes in organizations will require halting some common ways of making decisions that are so widely accepted and recommended that they are rarely questioned, yet deeply flawed, such as casual benchmarking other organizations, false analogies that pass for best practices, and dogmatism of deeply endorsed, but unexamined ideologies.

Yet, there is good news for leaders and their organizations, because every day there are opportunities to use better information to gain advantages over their competition. Doing so simply entails using evidence-based management. The foundations of evidence-based management are the scientifically-supported assertions that recognizing much of the conventional wisdom about management is built on dangerous half-truths, using better logic, employing facts to the extent possible, facing the hard facts about what works and what doesn’t, and rejecting total nonsense that too often passes for sound advice, all empower leaders and organizations to perform better.

As Dr. Petrocelli will show you, the practice of evidence-based management is neither mysterious nor extraordinarily difficult to implement. More importantly, evidence-based management produces superior results. Even better, evidence-based management can generate sustained competitive advantages because so few organizations and their leaders do it—let alone do it well—that the probability of imitation will not be high.

Feature in the Wall Street Journal – Your B.S. Detector Is Rusty: It’s Time to Sharpen It

Dr. Petrocelli on PBS – Detecting Malarkey

Podcast with Dr. Petrocelli on Dominate Your Market – Dissecting Decision-Making Process through Science

“Thank you again for a wonderful program today! We were so happy to have you present at the Leadership Series and appreciate you taking the time to ensure the program was a success. Our members were inspired, engaged, and thankful to have been able to see you present at the Leadership Series.”
- Lea Almagno, Executive Forum, Leadership Series Program Director

“Thank you so much for your fabulous session, judging by the comments and the excitement in the Community, it was a huge hit with the coaches. Thank you once again for sharing your wisdom and expertise with our global coach community during the 12th Annual WBECS Summit. Your contribution to the education of thousands of individuals has helped to raise the global standard of coaching. The Summit was a huge success, and we could not have done it without you! Collaborating with you has been an honor and a pleasure. You’ve played a major part in making this the most impactful WBECS to date.”
- Beth Schofield, World Business & Executive Coach Summit (WBECS),, Head of Speaker Selection and Coordination

“I had high hopes, and frankly they were exceeded. It was what I hoped it would be and I left with more clarity and understanding on the subject of BS.”
- Executive Forum, Attendee

“Thank you for your presentation to our Wealth Executive Forum. It was well received.”
- E. Loyd Pohl, CEO, Pohl Consulting and Training, Inc.

“John, this has been an extraordinary session. The exercises and stories have been an excellent complement to your narratives and explanations. THANK YOU.”
- WBECS,, Attendee

“For the Speaker: Really great guidelines for detecting and calling out BS. I also liked the emphasis on how it has more to do with how a decision is made vs. outcome and the need for leaders to communicate how they arrived at a decision.”
- WBECS,, Attendee

“Good session. Very engaging and informative. At this stage of my coaching career, I am hopeful for more in-depth sessions, more instructive, more in-depth applications. I appreciated this content as it is a subject that deeply resonates.”
- WBECS,, Attendee

“John Petrocelli's session was refreshing, challenging, and well presented. His integration of models with supporting data and real world examples sparked my thinking in how I approach some of my work. Thank you!”
- WBECS,, Attendee

“John Petrocelli was an engaging, insightful, impactful presenter who was compelling and spoke with clarity. Definitely invite him back!!”
- WBECS,, Attendee

Praise for The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit "This bracing yet accessible work is the right book at the right time. In a world clouded by nonsense, The Life-Changing Science of Detecting Bullshit is a welcome ray of sunshine.”
—Daniel H. Pink, New York Times bestselling author of When, Drive, and To Sell is Human

"We’ve all consumed and produced our share of bullshit, but John Petrocelli has spent his career studying it. This is the perfect moment for his thoughtful, readable book on the psychology of detecting fake news in the world around us—and false beliefs about ourselves too.”
—Adam Grant, New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and Originals, and host of the TED podcast WorkLife

"[A] spirited debut . . . Petrocelli shines . . . His advice for not getting taken advantage of is sound and straight-forward . . . readers will appreciate the wealth of examples and practical advice."
Publishers Weekly

View more praise here.