Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Forer Effect

The Forer Effect, (or as it is sometimes known, the Barnum Effect) gives a little insight into one of the tools used by psychics in 'cold reading' where they can convince their 'victims' that they know more than they really do, and use that knowledge to gain even more knowledge from the victim's reaction. See how appropriate this seems as a description of yourself.

"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."

Forer's example seems to apply to most of us, and in his experiment people were asked to rate how accurately they felt it described them. The average score was more than 4 out of 5. The Forer effect is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to almost anyone.

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