The Forer Effect (aka The Barnum Effect)
Read the following paragraphs and think on them for a few minutes and then rate the statement as it applies to you:
You often try to leave an impression on your surroundings that you are stern and rigid, while you are actually an emotional and vulnerable person. Sometimes you are bright, communicative and social, but you can turn into yourself, and in those times it is hard for people around you to reach your thoughts. You live changes and dynamic, and lack of freedom can make you discontent, even melancholic and depressive. You know that you are a person that has an attitude and you don’t take random opinions without hard evidence. You have an amazing ability to understand people who surround you and who you love. You also have a well-developed sense for rightfulness, and it is hardest for you to accept human greed and a lack of feeling for others.
In your love life you had lesser problems. Still, aside for a few weaknesses, your inner strength provided you with means to successfully diminish them. You are often expressing criticism about yourself, even more than it is necessary. The main cause is that you have a strong need to be accepted and loved, and you turn too strict when it comes to your character. You are aware that you hold significant potential that you still haven’t completely put to work because of your reticence and insecurity. Soon you will learn how to put your abilities to full use.
Now that you have had time to think on the statement and have had time to rate it, how accurate was it? Did it describe you or did it seem to describe someone other than you? Would it surprise you if I said that you have probably rated it as around 80-90% accurate? Am I right?
What you are witnessing is the “Forer (Barum) Effect”. In 1948, Bertram Forer, a psychologist, gave his students a personality test and told them he would provide a personal reading for each of them. He then went away and put the statement above in envelopes with his students names on them. They all received identical readings. The statement was assembled from horoscopes.
He handed out the statements and asked his students to rate them as they believed the statement applied to them. He asked his students to rate the statement from 0 to 5 – with “0” being not at all accurate and “5” being “spot on”. The class average was 4.26. Over the years, the same experiment has been carried out in different countries with different ranges of people and the average is still very similar – 84%.
This Effect relies on a few things: by making it seem personal (using “you” and “your”) the recipient is far more likely to believe it has been put together for them and so make them more presdisposed to believe it. The intentional vagueness of the “reading” will allow it be absolutely meaningless while at the same time be instantly recognisable by most people who read it, on re-reading the statement who hasn’t felt some of those things? It also relies on wishful thinking, we all believe that despite our hardships (or shortcomings) that things will turn out for the best. The statement is also positive enough to make you think better of yourself. In short, it tells you nothing you don’t already know, but seeing it written down by a relative stranger will make you believe these things because this perceptive person must have seen your true inner wonderfulness!
This is one technique used by psychics and other reader. This is not the only thing that will be used, but compare this to the readings given by psychics and mediums and even your daily horoscope – see any similarities? This is also known as “The Barnum Effect”, because one quote from the late, great PT Barnum says “there is something for everybody”.