Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cold Readings and Forer's Effect

Let me guess some things about you: you like some expressions of art, but you don't consider yourself good enough at them, though you do have 'good taste'. You're young, born from white-collar workers, and consider yourself an underachiever. You've tried learning a second language mostly because you like foreign cultures or think it will be an important experience. Sometimes you feel like just being alone for a while, whereas some you prefer the company of people with whom you can talk or have fun.

how much of what I just said is true? 50%? 40%? 70%? let me know in the comments which parts were more accurate.
What I just tried to do on you is called a cold reading, a common thing for mentalists or, before them, fortune tellers. But why should I tell you about it if I can let an expert do the job for me:

There, go try this on random people when you meet them at a party, you'll certainly impress some, or spook others. It's especially good if you combine it with kinesics, a topic which I'll discuss on a future article if my readers are interested.
Why does this technique work, you may ask? Well, in part, because of Forer's effect.

Forer's effect, first described bypsychologist Bertram R. Forer, says if we make random (but vague enough) statements about someone, and justify them somehow (voodoo, the way they look at you, how they laugh, astrology, their social security number), they're going to say most of it is true about them, especially if related to their personalities.
For instance, it's likely that in my description of RandomReader#34 at the beginning of the article, the last sentence seemed to you the most accurate, or one of them.
To prove this effect, Forer made a made a group of subjects take a test and gave to all of them this same result that described them:

You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure 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 pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.

Then he asked them to qualify how accurate each sentence was in describing them. out of five points, how many do you think this got? How much would you give it? Well, on average, this whole got 4.26 points. Not bad, huh? If random sentences describe 80% of your personality, then either there's something tricky here, or we humans are really predictable.
Why is this effect so relevant? Because it's what horoscopes, astrology, akashic whatchamacallem and even some shady psychology tests are based on!
Yes, I just gave you the weapon to use against that girl that thinks you're oh, so aquarian! 

Back to the cold readings skill, and this is where the effect becomes really useful, suppose you're at a party. A person coughs covering their mouth with a clenched fist, barely loudly.
You look at them and say 'you cover your mouth with a fist, indicating some sort of repressed emotion, plus you try not to be loud because you're either not confident in most social situations, or you don't know this environment well enough.' Now, you just said absolutely nothing to them: everyone has some repressed emotion, and is uncomfortable around other people in a small quantity (only in the alertness with which comes any social situation, not in a bad sense. The same alertness that prevents you from farting among other people or pissing your pants), but that person will probably think you read their minds, and you might as well go with it!

If you find any fun use for this, please tell me in the comments!

I'd like to use this space to remind you that esperanto is a living, useful language which can easily be learnt here. Join the crusade!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are the force that motivates me to keep posting. If you liked what you read, please leave a comment, even if you only say 'I liked your post'.