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astrology skepticHere is an interesting article about an experiment performed in 1948 by Bertram R. Forer who collected statements from sun sign columns and then presented them to his subjects as though they were personally assessed as part of a personality profile.  Note: “horoscopes” are not sun sign forecasts, the horoscope is the actual map of the sky at a given time – the astrological chart, if you will.

These statements include the following:

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.

The author of this article is correct – these do all apply to everyone to some extent or another.  The Forer Effect is designed to prove something psychologists call “Subjective Validation,” or as the author says, “you are far more vulnerable to suggestion when the subject of the conversation is you.”

The author goes on to write:

Seen straight on, horoscopes describe the sort of things we all experience, but pluck one from the bunch, turn it ever so slightly, and you will see the details, the accuracy. If you believe you live under a sign, and the movement of the planets can divine your future, a general statement becomes specific.
It is the the hope which gives subjective validation its power. If you want the psychic to be real, or the sacred stones to forecast the unknown, you will find a way to believe them even when they falter.
When you want to believe something, when you need something to be true, you will look for patterns; you connect the dots like the stars of a constellation. You will take the random and give it purpose, transmutate the chaotic into the systemic, see chance as fate.
Your brain abhors disorder. You find patterns where there are none, see faces in clouds, demons in bonfires.

Seen straight on, horoscopes describe the sort of things we all experience, but pluck one from the bunch, turn it ever so slightly, and you will see the details, the accuracy. If you believe you live under a sign, and the movement of the planets can divine your future, a general statement becomes specific.

It is the the hope which gives subjective validation its power. If you want the psychic to be real, or the sacred stones to forecast the unknown, you will find a way to believe them even when they falter.

When you want to believe something, when you need something to be true, you will look for patterns; you connect the dots like the stars of a constellation. You will take the random and give it purpose, transmutate the chaotic into the systemic, see chance as fate.

Your brain abhors disorder. You find patterns where there are none, see faces in clouds, demons in bonfires.

This reminds me of the Skeptics Challenge I ran on this blog a few years ago, where I challenged astrology skeptics to get a free mini reading from me to see if they changed their mind.   Several rather sincere skeptics did take me up on my offer and were notably impressed.  One skeptic, however (Paul), took the mini-reading I did for him and posted it on his blog, eliminating the statements that were specific to him and using only the general ones.   

Paul very much wanted to continue the argument, but I have no interest in arguing the rational validity of astrology.  To me the proof is in the pudding.  I’ll be the first one to argue that Sun Sign newspaper columns, which some people call “horoscopes,” are very general.  They are meant to be!  Not all people born under the sign of Aries will have the same experience, the birthchart is too complicated for that to be the case.  Some of those people will have a heavy watery Pisces influence in their chart, others might have earthy Capricorn.  

I do think it’s terribly sad that skeptics refuse to open their mind to the beauty and magic of the Universe.

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