Astrology Debunked: A Skeptics Guide
- The Barnum Effect
- Subjective Validation
- Cold Reading and Forer Effect
- Further Reading/Viewing
Here are a few terms that would be useful for you to know so that you don’t get taken advantage of so easily, by the ridiculous non-sense and non-science ideas of psychics and astrology. They should only be viewed as entertainment used by illusionist and magicians as part of a routine and not taken seriously as some con artist will try to make you believe.
The Skeptic’s Dictionary: A collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions
The Barnum effect is the name given to a type ofsubjective validation in which a person finds personal meaning in statements that could apply to many people.
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. At times you have serious doubts whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
If these statements sound like they came from a newsstand astrology book, that may be because they did. Such statements are sometimes called Barnum statements and they are an effective element in the repertoire of anyone doing readings: astrologers, palm readers, psychics, rumpologistsand so on.
If the statements appear on a personality inventory that one believes has been especially prepared for you alone, one often validates the accuracy of such statements and thereby gives validity to the instrument used to arrive at them. If Barnum statements are validated when they have originated during a psychic reading, the validation is taken as also validating the psychic powers of the medium.
"Barnum effect" is an expression that seems to have originated with psychologist Paul Meehl, in deference to circus man P. T. Barnum’s reputation as a master psychological manipulator who is said to have claimed "we have something for everybody." (Barnum did not originate the expression "There’s a sucker born every minute," though it has often been attributed to him. David Hannum, leader of a syndicate that had purchased the Cardiff giant, was quoted as saying ”There’s a sucker born every minute” when he heard of Barnum’s plan to display a fake of the fake giant.*)
Subjective validation is the process of validating words, initials, statements, or signs as accurate because one is able to find them personally meaningful and significant. Subjective validation explains why many people are seduced by the apparent accuracy of pseudoscientific personality profiles. Subjective validation deludes everyone from the housewife who thinks her happiness depends on her blood type or horoscope, to the FBI agent who thinks criminal profiles are spot on, to the therapist who thinks her Rorschach readings are penetrating portraits of psychological disorders.
Subjective validation is an essential element of any successful cold reading done by astrologers, palm readers, tarot readers, mediums, and the like. The sitter in such readings must cooperate. Fortunately for the medium, most sitters are usually eager for the reader to succeed and are willing to work hard to find personal meaning in whatever the reader throws out. In a successful cold reading, the sitter will be convinced that the accuracy of the reading was not due to her ability and willingness to cooperate but rather to the powers of astrology, palmistry, tarot, or mediumship.
Sitters are often very compliant. A medium will say he senses a father figure trying to contact him from the spirit world and the sitter has only to find someone to fit the bill. It need not be the sitter’s father. So, when the sitter identifies this father figure as her deceased husband, the medium is validated by the subject. The medium is validated by the subject when the medium says she is getting the message “I do not walk alone” and the sitter makes sense out of this by seeing it as a communication from a departed soul who was in a wheelchair before she died. There may be thousands of ways to make sense out of an ambiguous stimulus like the name ‘Michael’ or the expression ‘broken wheel’ but all it takes is for the sitter to find one and the medium is validated.
Selective memory is also involved in subjective validation because it is very unlikely that any sitter will be able to find meaning in every utterance the medium makes. Fortunately for the reader, the sitter will usually forget the misses and remember only the hits. That is, the sitter will remember what she was able to make sense out of and forget the stuff that made no sense to her. Also, it rarely occurs that anyone makes an independent check of the accuracy of the sitter’s rating of the reader.* So, if a sitter is satisfied that a reading is very accurate that is usually taken as sufficient evidence by the medium - and by experimenters who test mediums such as Gary Schwartz - as proof of the accuracy of the reading.
The stronger the desire to make contact, the harder the sitter will work to find meaning and connections in the medium’s items. This fact should impact the design of experiments that are supposed to test a medium’s ability to get messages from spirits. Experimenters should always checks factual claims made by sitters. But even though the concern with factual accuracy is important in verifying the success of the medium, one should not lose sight of the importance of the studies that have been done on how the human mind works when it comes to making sense out of and giving significance to disparate data presented to it. The overall effect of subjective validation should show up in the way sitters rate the accuracy of the mediums’ claims.
Gary Schwartz is considered by some to be the foremost researcher of mediumship today. Yet, when he tested Allison Dubois—the model for the psychic on the hit TV show “Medium”—he did not use controls that could have eliminated subjective validation as an explanation for the high rating given by a woman who had a reading done by Dubois. The psychic was asked to contact a deceased person close to a woman in England that she had never met. She was told only the woman’s first name and that she wanted to hear from her deceased husband. During the actual reading, Dubois was at Schwartz’s University of Arizona lab and the sitter was in England. A transcript of the information Dubois got during the reading—supposedly from the dead husband—was sent to the woman in England. She scored the reading as 73 percent accurate. Schwartz claimed: “That’s extraordinarily high accuracy.”* However, he does not mention whether he sent the same reading to several other ladies in England who would like to contact a dead husband. Had he done so, he might have something to compare to the 73% accurate claim. Subjects given fake personality readings routinely rate them as over 80% accurate.* C. R. Snyder got similar high readings from subjects given fake astrology readings (Zusne and Jones 1989: 207). Without controls, the high ratings given by raters in Schwartz’s experiments cannot be validly labeled as “extraordinarily high.”
In his Afterlife Experiments Schwartz says almost nothing about subjective validation except to dismiss the charge of cold reading on the part of the mediums on the ground that they are not using the standard tricks of magicians and mentalists. The success of a cold reading with a sitter, however, doesn’t have to depend on guessing or cheating. It doesn’t have to depend on using Forer or Barnumstatements. It doesn’t have to depend on going on a fishing expedition with rapid fire questions. Nor does it have to depend on playing Sherlock Holmes and picking up subtle cues from the sitter’s demeanor, dress, intonation, perfume, jewelry, and the like. But cold reading always depends on the sitter being willing and able to connect the dots and make sense out of most of what the reader brings up.
Subjective validation, however, occurs not only in cold reading but in other instances as well. For example, subjects given phony personality or astrological readings often rate their accuracy as very high. Why? Because human beings are very good at finding meaning where there is none and giving significance to what is actually meaningless in itself. We are especially good at relating things to ourselves. Words, symbols, signs, sounds, gestures, and the like have no meaning in themselves. Human beings give them meaning and often we give them apersonal meaning when none was intended. We’re very good at this and you might say it is what distinguishes us from most other creatures on this planet. Sometimes, however, we don’t see what is right before our eyes. We see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear. If our motivation is strong enough we can sometimes even bring the dead back to life or come to believe that mundane things about our lives are imbued with paranormal or supernatural significance.
*Occasionally, a medium will be caught in an egregious error, as Sylvia Browne was when she appeared on the Montel Williams show and told the parents of a missing 10-year-old boy that their son was dead. Four years later, Shawn Hornbeck was found alive. Browne also claimed that the man who took Shawn was a “dark-skinned man, he wasn’t black — more like Hispanic.” She said he had long black hair in dreadlocks and was “really tall.” She was wrong on all counts. She was also wrong about the vehicle driven by Michael J. Devlin, the man arrested in the case. Another alleged psychic, James Van Praagh said that two people were involved in the abduction and that a person who worked in a railroad car plant was involved and the body might be concealed in a railway car.
<a id=”A” name=”A”>A look at Van Praagh’s message board will reveal why such errors do little to destroy people’s faith in charlatans like Browne or Van Praagh. To the devoted believer, the psychic can do no wrong. If there was an error, it wasn’t the psychic’s fault. What may appear to be an error may not really be an error. It’s possible the psychic got his or her wires crossed and mistook one spirit for another. And so on. And, as Van Praagh and Browne have often said, they’re not gods and not infallible. When you’re validated you’re right and when you’re wrong you’re right. For the alleged psychic it is always a win-win with your devoted followers.
"In the course of a successful reading, the psychic may provide most of the words, but it is the client that provides most of the meaning and all of the significance." —Ian Rowland (2000: 60)
Note: to understand cold reading you must understand subjective validation.
Cold reading refers to a set of techniques used by professional manipulators to get a subject to behave in a certain way or to think that the cold reader has some sort of special ability that allows him to “mysteriously” know things about the subject. Cold reading goes beyond the usual tools of manipulation: suggestion and flattery. In cold reading, salespersons, hypnotists, advertising pros, faith healers, con men, and some therapists bank on their subject’s inclination to find more meaning in a situation than there actually is. The desire to make sense out of experience can lead us to many wonderful discoveries, but it can also lead us to many follies. The manipulator knows that his markwill be inclined to try to make sense out of whatever he is told, no matter how farfetched or improbable. He knows, too, that people are generally self-centered, that we tend to have unrealistic views of ourselves, and that we will generally accept claims about ourselves that reflect not how we are or even how we really think we are but how we wish we were or think we should be. He also knows that for every several claims he makes about you that you reject as being inaccurate, he will make one that meets with your approval; and he knows that you are likely to remember the hits he makes and forget the misses.
Thus, a good manipulator can provide a reading of a total stranger, which will make the stranger feel that the manipulator possesses some special power. For example, Bertram Forer has never met you, yet he offers the following cold reading of you:
Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and reserved. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do not accept others’ opinions without satisfactory proof. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety, and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside.
Your sexual adjustment has presented some problems for you. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you.
Here’s another reading that you might find fairly accurate about you:
People close to you have been taking advantage of you. Your basic honesty has been getting in your way. Many opportunities that you have had offered to you in the past have had to be surrendered because you refuse to take advantage of others. You like to read books and articles to improve your mind. In fact, if you’re not already in some sort of personal service business, you should be. You have an infinite capacity for understanding people’s problems and you can sympathize with them. But you are firm when confronted with obstinacy or outright stupidity. Law enforcement would be another field you understand. Your sense of justice is quite strong.
The last one was from astrologer Sidney Omarr. He’s never even met you and yet he knows so much about you (Randi 1982: 61). The first one was taken by Forer from a newsstand astrology book.
The selectivity of the human mind is always at work. We pick and choose what data we will remember and what we will give significance to. In part, we do so because of what we already believe or want to believe. In part, we do so in order to make sense out of what we are experiencing. We are not manipulated simply because we are gullible or suggestible, or just because the signs and symbols of the manipulator are vague or ambiguous. Even when the signs are clear and we are skeptical, we can still be manipulated. In fact, it may even be the case that particularly bright persons are more likely to be manipulated when the language is clear and they are thinking logically. To make the connections that the manipulator wants you to make, you must be thinking logically.
Not all cold readings are done by malicious manipulators. Some readings are done by astrologers, graphologists, tarot readers, New Age healers, and people who genuinely believe they have paranormal powers. They are as impressed by their correct predictions or “insights” as are their clients and patients. We should remember, however, that just as scientists can be wrong in their predictions, so pseudoscientists and quacks can sometimes be right in theirs.
There seem to be three common factors in these kinds of readings. One factor involves fishing for details. The psychic says something at once vague and suggestive, e.g., “I’m getting a strong feeling about January here.” If the subject responds, positively or negatively, the psychic’s next move is to play off the response. E.g., if the subject says, “I was born in January” or my mother died in January” then the psychic says something like “Yes, I can see that,” anything to reinforce the idea that the psychic was more precise that he or she really was. If the subject responds negatively, e.g., “I can’t think of anything particularly special about January,” the psychic might reply, “Yes, I see that you’ve suppressed a memory about it. You don’t want to be reminded of it. Something painful in January. Yes, I feel it. It’s in the lower back [fishing]…oh, now it’s in the heart [fishing]…umm, there seems to be a sharp pain in the head [fishing]…or the neck [fishing].” If the subject gives no response, the psychic can leave the area, having firmly implanted in everybody’s mind that the psychic really did ‘see’ something but the subject’s suppression of the event hinders both the psychic and the subject from realizing the specifics of it. If the subject gives a positive response to any of the fishing expeditions, the psychic follows up with more of “I see that very clearly, now. Yes, the feeling in the heart is getting stronger.”
Fishing is a real art and a good mentalist carries a variety of bait in his memory. For example, professional mentalist and author of one of the best books on cold reading, Ian Rowland (2002), says that he has committed to memory such things as the most common male and female names and a list of items likely to be lying about the house such as an old calendar, a photo album, newspaper clippings, and so on. Rowland also works on certain themes that are likely to resonate with most people who consult psychics: love, money, career, health, and travel. Since cold reading can occur in many contexts, there are several tactics Rowland covers. But whether one is working with astrology,graphology, palmistry, psychometry, rumpology, orTarot cards, or whether one is channeling messages from the dead as many mediums claim to be doing, there are specific techniques one can use to impress clients with one’s ability to know things that seem to require paranormal powers.
Another characteristic of these readings is that many claims are put in vague statement form (“I’m getting a warm feeling in the crotch area”) orin the form of a question (“I sense that you have strong feelings about someone in this room. Am I right?”) Most, but not all, of the specific claims are provided by the subject himself.
Some experts on cold reading emphasize paying attention to body language and such things as the dress of the client.
The reader begins with generalities which are applicable to large segments of the population. He or she pays careful attention to reactions: words, body language, skin color, breathing patterns, dilation or contraction of the pupils of the eye, and more. The subject of the reading will usually convey important information to the reader: sometimes in words, and sometimes in bodily reactions to the reading.
From observation, the reader will feed back to the subject what the latter wants to hear. That is the overwhelming guiding principle of the mystics: Tell ‘em what they want to hear. That will keep them coming back for more (Steiner 1989: 21).
Also, those occasions where the psychic has guessed wrongly about the subject are likely to be forgotten by the subject and the audience. What will be remembered are the seeming hits, giving the overall impression of “wow, how else could she have known all this stuff unless she is psychic.” This same phenomenon of suppression of contrary evidence and selective thinking is so predominant in every form of psychic demonstration that it seems to be related to the old psychological principle: a man sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.
cold reading and contacting the dead
Many cold readings do not involve fishing, vagueness, or wild guessing. The key to a successful cold reading is the willingness, ability, and effort of the client to find meaning and significance in the words of the psychic, astrologer, palm reader, medium, or the like. A medium claiming to get messages from the dead might throw out a string of ambiguous images to the client. Father figure, the month of May, the Big-H, an H with an N sound, Henna, Henry, M, maybe Michael, teaching, books, maybe something published. This list could mean different things to different people. To some people it probably has no meaning. The client will either connect these dots or she won’t. Clients of mediums who claim to get messages from the dead are very highly motivated clients. Not only do they have an implicit desire for immortality, they have an explicit desire to contact a dear loved one who has died. The odds are in favor of the medium that the client will find meaning in many different sets of ambiguous words and phrases. If she connects just a couple of them, she may be satisfied that the medium has made a connection to a dead relative. If she doesn’t find any meaning or significance in the string, the medium still wins. He can try another string. He can insist that there’s meaning here but the client just isn’t trying hard enough to figure it out. He can suggest that some uninvited spirit guests are confusing the issue. It’s a win-win situation for the medium because the burden is not on him but on the client to find the meaning and significance of the words.
Successful cold readings are sometimes a testament to the skills of the reader, but they are always a testament to the ability of human beings to make sense out of the most disparate of data. The skill of cold reading can be honed and turned into an art, as it is by professionals who work as mediums, palm readers, astrologers, and the like. It has also been argued that criminal profiling and reading Rorschach ink blots use these same techniques. Many of these professionals may not even realize what they are doing and attribute their high rate of client satisfaction to the validity of profiling, the Rorschach, astrology, or palmistry. Some may believe their success is due to their psychic or intuitive powers. They may come to believe in the reality of the spirit world by becoming convinced that meaningful signals from beyond sometimes rise above the noise of daily life and are detected by skilled mediums. Some of these professionals know what they are doing and they deceive the public, if not themselves. Other professionals (mentalists) know what they are doing but they tell their clients or audiences that they need no paranormal or supernatural powers to accomplish their feats.
In evaluating cold reading, it is a common mistake to focus mainly on the reader rather than the sitter (the one for whom the reading is done). Gary Schwartz seems to have done this in his work that led up to the book The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death. He seems to think that if he can eliminate trickery, deceit, and fraud on the part of the mediums in his experiments, then he has eliminated cold or hot reading as a viable explanation for the validation by sitters of their readings. He makes this point throughout his book and emphasizes it in a paper he and others published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research:
Because the sitter-silent condition provides no verbal/semantic feedback to the mediums as well as minimal non-verbal feedback (save for possible sighs or breathing information from the sitters), the sitter-silent condition eliminates the plausibility of ‘cold reading’ as a probable explanation for the findings. For this reason, the paper reports the data from the sitter-silent condition. These form the most compelling evidence for anomalous information retrieval.*
The sitter-silent condition (a.k.a. the Russek Protocol) lets the medium do a reading within hearing distance of the sitter but does not permit the medium to ask any questions or the sitter to make any responses during the reading.
It is evident from Forer’s work and from tests done on college students who are given personality or astrological readings that it is not necessary to interrogate the client to get him or her to find meaning and significance in complete sentences that were not generated on the basis of any personal knowledge. It also seems evident that many people should be able to find meaning and significance in various strings of initials, names, descriptions of places, and so on. And, while it is true that some mediums use trickery, such as having accomplices in the audience or having detective work done on the sitter, it is not necessary. What many saw Rosemary Althea do at a “psychic reading” in a Penn & TellerBullshit! episode, for example, is not required for a successful reading. Her agent brought two couples to the reading, both of whom had lost a child to suicide (guess what came through in their readings) and she chatted up a young man before the reading began who told her that he wanted to connect with his mother (guess who she connected to during the reading). In the same Bullshit! episode, Mark Edward (no relation to John Edward) did a successful reading for a woman without using any hot reading tricks. But even his method of fishing around for something the sitter can connect to isn’t necessary for a successful reading. The sitter is the key to the success of a reading by a medium and different mediums use different methods.
Watch Rosemary Althea & Mark Edward work
Successful readings that involve contact with dead loved ones are a testament to the wonderful capacity of our species to find meaning in just about any image, word, phrase, or string of such items. We can find Jesus in a burnt tortilla, Mother Teresa in a cinnamon bun, the Virgin Mary in a water stain or in the discoloration on the bark of a tree, or Vladimir Lenin in the soap scum on a shower curtain (pareidolia). We can see the devil in a puddle of water and hear him tempting us (apophenia). It is the same complex human brain that makes it possible for us to find these illusory meanings that allows us to write and appreciate multifaceted poetry and to discover real patterns in nature. This wonderful brain of ours, the product of tens of thousands of years of evolution, also makes it possible for us to deceive ourselves and others. Even more wonderful is the fact that this brain of ours can be used to try to understand the many ways we go right and wrong in our attempts to make sense out of life and death.
To get firsthand experience of cold reading and subjective validation, contact a psychic.
[Note: Some people use the expression warm reading to refer to using Barnum statements or the like, e.g., Peter Huston. Ian Rowland, Bob Steiner, and Ray Hyman consider such statements as part of a cold reading. Others use warm reading to refer to “utilizing known principles of psychology that apply to nearly everyone,” e.g., Michael Shermer. What Shermer gives as an example of warm reading, Ray Hyman and Ian Rowland would give as an example of cold reading. Many grieving people will wear a piece of jewelry that has a connection to their loved one. To claim to get some sort of message about a piece of jewelry belonging to the deceased while doing a reading will often shock a client, who will make the connection and take your message as a sign you have made contact with the other side.]
The Forer effect refers to the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements could apply to many people.
Psychologist Bertram R. Forer (1914-2000) found that people tend to accept vague and general personality descriptions as uniquely applicable to themselves without realizing that the same description could be applied to just about anyone. Consider the following as if it were given to you as an evaluation of your personality.
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
Forer gave a personality test to his students, ignored their answers, and gave each student the above evaluation. He asked them to evaluate the evaluation from 0 to 5, with “5” meaning the recipient felt the evaluation was an “excellent” assessment and “4” meaning the assessment was “good.” The class average evaluation was 4.26. That was in 1948. The test has been repeated hundreds of time with psychology students and the average is still around 4.2 out of 5, or 84% accurate.
In short, Forer convinced people he could successfully read their character. His accuracy amazed his subjects, though his personality analysis was taken from a newsstand astrology column and was presented to people without regard to their sun sign. The Forer effect seems to explain, in part at least, why so many people think thatpseudosciences ”work”. Astrology, astrotherapy,biorhythms, cartomancy, chiromancy, theenneagram, fortune telling, graphology, rumpology, etc., seem to work because they seem to provide accurate personality analyses. Scientific studies of these pseudosciences demonstrate that they are not valid personality assessment tools, yet each has many satisfied customers who are convinced they are accurate.
The most common explanations given to account for the Forer effect are in terms of hope, wishful thinking, vanity and the tendency to try to make sense out of experience, though Forer’s own explanation was in terms of human gullibility. People tend to accept claims about themselves in proportion to their desire that the claims be true rather than in proportion to the empirical accuracy of the claims as measured by some non-subjective standard. We tend to accept questionable, even false statements about ourselves, if we deem them positive or flattering enough. We will often give very liberal interpretations to vague or inconsistent claims about ourselves in order to make sense out of the claims. Subjects who seek counseling from psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, mind readers, graphologists, etc., will often ignore false or questionable claims and, in many cases, by their own words or actions, will provide most of the information they erroneously attribute to a pseudoscientific counselor. Many such subjects often feel their counselors have provided them with profound and personal information. Such subjective validation, however, is of little scientific value.
Psychologist Barry Beyerstein believes that “hope and uncertainty evoke powerful psychological processes that keep all occult and pseudoscientific character readers in business.” We are constantly trying “to make sense out of the barrage of disconnected information we face daily” and “we become so good at filling in to make a reasonable scenario out of disjointed input that we sometimes make sense out of nonsense.” We will often fill in the blanks and provide a coherent picture of what we hear and see, even though a careful examination of the evidence would reveal that the data is vague, confusing, obscure, inconsistent and even unintelligible. Psychic mediums, for example, will often ask so many disconnected and ambiguous questions in rapid succession that they give the impression of having access to personal knowledge about their subjects. In fact, the psychic need not have any insights into the subject’s personal life; for, the subject will willingly and unknowingly provide all the associations and validations needed. Psychics are aided in this process by using cold readingtechniques.
David Marks and Richard Kamman argue that
once a belief or expectation is found, especially one that resolves uncomfortable uncertainty, it biases the observer to notice new information that confirms the belief, and to discount evidence to the contrary. This self-perpetuating mechanism consolidates the original error and builds up an overconfidence in which the arguments of opponents are seen as too fragmentary to undo the adopted belief.
Having a pseudoscientific counselor go over a character assessment with a client is wrought with snares that can easily lead the most well intentioned of persons into error and delusion.
Barry Beyerstein suggests the following test to determine whether the apparent validity of the pseudosciences mentioned above might not be due to the Forer effect, confirmation bias, or other psychological factors. (Note: the proposed test also uses subjective or personal validation and is not intended to test the accuracy of any personality assessment tool, but rather is intended to counteract the tendency to self-deception about such matters.)
…a proper test would first have readings done for a large number of clients and then remove the names from the profiles (coding them so they could later be matched to their rightful owners). After all clients had read all of the anonymous personality sketches, each would be asked to pick the one that described him or her best. If the reader has actually included enough uniquely pertinent material, members of the group, on average, should be able to exceed chance in choosing their own from the pile.
Beyerstein notes that “no occult or pseudoscientific character reading method…has successfully passed such a test.”
The Forer effect, however, only partially explains why so many people accept as accurate occult and pseudoscientific character assessment procedures.Cold reading, communal reinforcement, andselective thinking also underlie these delusions. Also, it should be admitted that while many of the assessment claims in a pseudoscientific reading are vague and general, some are specific. Some of those that are specific actually apply to large numbers of people and some, by chance, will be accurate descriptions of a select few. A certain number of specific assessment claims should be expected by chance.
There have been numerous studies done on the Forer effect. Dickson and Kelly have examined many of these studies and concluded that overall there is significant support for the general claim that Forer profiles are generally perceived to be accurate by subjects in the studies. Furthermore, there is an increased acceptance of the profile if it is labeled “for you”. Favorable assessments are “more readily accepted as accurate descriptions of subjects’ personalities than unfavorable” ones. But unfavorable claims are “more readily accepted when delivered by people with high perceived status than low perceived status.” It has also been found that subjects can generally distinguish between statements that are accurate (but would be so for large numbers of people) and those that are unique (accurate for them but not applicable to most people). There is also some evidence that personality variables such as neuroticism, need for approval, and authoritarianism are positively related to belief in Forer-like profiles. Unfortunately, most Forer studies have been done only on college students.
ooc: Reblogging because holy shit.
I aspire to be this woman when I’m older.
This woman was born before women were legally allowed to vote.
So don’t think for a second that she’s joking when she sees you trying to take that right away, Republicans.
Don’t Get Me Started - Stewart Lee - What’s So Wrong About Blasphemy?
Lately, feminists like Annie Lennox, bell hooks and Emma Watson have taken issue with Beyoncé’s sexual openness. While trying to discredit Beyoncé as a feminist, they seem to have forgotten one of the most important parts of Chimamanda’s speech in ***Flawless."What does a lady dress like, exactly? And who decided what a lady looks like? What bearing should one’s clothing have on one’s identification as a feminist? This is exactly the kind of misogynist policing we’ve fought tooth and claw against for decades, and to level this line of “reasoning” at Beyoncé is not only antifeminist, it is despicable." (x)
If you’re one of those people that holds to the notion, that the amount of clothing a person wears in any way shape or form, prohibits, restricts, or discounts their ability to form arguments, have opinions and express themselves emotionally or creatively, congratulations you’re part of the problem.
The past six months have been the hottest such stretch on Earth since recording began in 1880.
Each week, we reveal the story behind an iconic image
"• In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255. In the UK, the Samaritans can be contacted on 08457 90 90 90. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is on 13 11 14. Hotlines in other countries can be found here.”
this is so incredibly important to me holy shit
an article about an agender person’s identity ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE WASHINGTON POST
FRONT AND CENTER!!!!!
AGHAFDHF!! SJFGSJS!! JSHFKA!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME
this kind of visibility is excellent, but I’m curbing my enthusiasm until I can read the article. :/
I read the whole frigging thing and I loved it. I’m agender and I really appreciate the way this was written. I actually was crying a little by the end.
Everyone should know that this happened, it is kind of a big deal.
I’m so happy about this!!!!
The history of human ideas about our place in the universe has been a long series of letdowns for everybody who likes to believe we’re special.