The Forer effect refers to the tendency of people to rate sets of statements as highly accurate for them personally even though the statements were not made about them personally and 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 many people. 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 (taken from a newsstand astrology column). 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 that pseudosciences “work”. Astrology, astrotherapy, biorhythms, cartomancy, chiromancy, the enneagram, 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. 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.
James Randi‘s fiery takedown of psychic fraud
Legendary skeptic James Randi takes a fatal dose of homeopathic sleeping pills onstage, kicking off a searing 18-minute indictment of irrational beliefs. He throws out a challenge to the world’s psychics: Prove what you do is real, and I’ll give you a million dollars. (No takers yet.)
• Cold Reading
Making vague statements that will fit most people if they want them to
Cold reading is a series of techniques employed by psychics, mediums and mentalists that are used to manipulate the customer (sitter) into believing that the psychic can read their mind, or that the medium is in contact with a dead relative or friend.
A cold reading will involved things that are called ‘Forer Statements’ (or or Barnum statements) which are designed to encourage the sitter to fill in the gaps in the information being given. Though these statements may appear to be specific they are really very open-ended and vague and could really apply to anyone. Experiments have shown how similar statements can be taken personally when issued to dozens of people at the same time!
Some examples of such statements would be:
- “I sense that you are sometimes insecure, especially with people you don’t know very well.”
- “You work with computers”
- “You’re having problems with a friend or relative”
Here is ‘psychic’ James Van Prag demonstrating what appears to be a very embarrassing cold reading:
• Rainbow Ruse
Ticking all potential boxes by making all-encompassing descriptions
Similar to Forer statements is the “rainbow ruse” which involves a statement that covers all possibilities and often describe somebody as being two completely different types of person at the same time. Here are some examples:
- “Most of the time you are positive and cheerful, but there has been a time in the past when you were very upset.”
- “You are a very kind and considerate person, but occasionally you feel deep-seated anger.”
- “I would say that you are mostly shy and quiet, but when the mood strikes you, you can easily become the centre of attention.”
• Hot/warm Reading
Using information gained before the show about the audience
Then there is hot (or warm) reading. This is a form of cheating and happens when a Medium or Psychic secretly gathers information about members of the audience in order that they may use this in their performance but pass it off as being a result of their psychic gift.
Additonally, they may research the location they are performing in, and may even invite those recently bereaved whose details they can extract from local sources (newspapers, websites, discussion groups), and the internet. They might ask people to request readings by filling in cards or forms in the foyer, or they might require people give their names when they book tickets and then use this information to simply google them.
Here is an example of someone using ‘hot reading’ to fool their audience into thinking they’re receiving messages from a supernatural source, when they’re not.
Making random statements in the hope someone will make them fit
This is another tactic which involves revealing a huge amount of very general information to a whole audience and seeing what sticks. A psychic or medium will likely generate many, many misses when they employ these techniques but because of the way our brains work when we want to believe something very badly, many will leave the performance only remembering apparent ‘hits’ or correct guesses.
A typical Psychic or Medium will use all of these techniques in the course of a performance and a skilled cold reader will be able to spin out the brief sentences and statements into paragraphs of psychic prose.
It is worth noting that some Mediums or Psychics may be just naturally good cold readers and don’t realise that what they’re doing isn’t the result of a supernatural gift.
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.
In 1997, 20,000 people in Phoenix, Arizona saw a cluster of lights was seen by as many as 20,000 people, . It is one of the biggest mass UFO sightings of all time. Can these strange lights be explained? Or were they of alien origin?
Did you know Mars is NOT reddish in color? It’s true. It looks just like earth!!! Mars has earth colored soil and a beautiful blue sky – just like Hawaii!
As one conspiracy website put it –
This is very interesting. It may come as a surprise to many readers that Mars looks very much like Earth. It’s not red or orange – NASA applies a lens to tint the pictures or they release black and white photos… here’s a real color picture of Mars… blue sky and all… it gets to the point where you ask yourself “what does the government not lie about?”
They included this image as proof:
I can’t believe anybody would believe Mars looks like earth. But i’ll push forward simply for the entertainment value and because there is some interesting facts to be learned – stuff i didn’t know. I love everything space related.
Two facts about Mars:
So while the Romans and the Egyptians knew Mars appeared red simply by looking up into the night sky, today’s conspiracists insist our belief that Mars is red is actually a false belief perpetuated by a government coverup.
Maybe i am endowed with an abundance of common sense but couldn’t these conspiracists step outside their mother’s basement, look up into the night sky and see what Mars looks like to the naked eye? I’m just saying.
But i digress …
So i decided to pursue this absurdity to another level. I took the photo featured on the conspiracy website and i decided to find out where it came from. I found the original photo at the NASA website. It really wasn’t hard to find (Even a conspiracist could have found it). I then superimposed the conspiracy picture next to the original NASA photo. The conspiracy photo is on the left, the original NASA image is on the right:
When you adjust the color on your television set, you do so by picking something on the screen that you know should be a certain color (such as grass should be green) and you adjust your set accordingly. This is a form of calibration. You used the color of the grass as a reference point. Instruments that go to Mars also need to be calibrated so that scientists receive accurate information. There has to be a known reference — a calibration target.
The rover’s calibration targets are objects with known properties. For example, the Pancam calibration target. It is in the shape of a sundial and is mounted on the rover deck. Pancam will image the sundial many times during the mission so that scientists can adjust the images they receive from Mars. They use the colored blocks in the corners of the sundial to calibrate the color in images of the martian landscape. Pictures of the shadows that are cast by the sundial’s center post allow scientists to properly adjust the brightness of each Pancam image. Children provided artwork for the sides of the base of the sundial.
This is the same process used by Hollywood movie makers. They use a device called a “clapper board” to mark the beginning of a scene or a “take.” I’m sure you’ve seen this used in the movies. Well, at the top of some clapper boards you will see a rainbow of colors. Like the Pancam calibration target on the Mars rover, the colors along the top of the clapper board provide a known color reference that can be used in post production by movie editors to ensure the colors in the final cut are “true” to what was recorded on the movie set.
Speaking of “true colors,” let’s get back to why NASA would choose to creat “false color” photos along with “true color” photos. It’s really not as mysterious as it might sound. Let’s start with a technical definition of both:
An image is called a “true-color” image when it offers a natural color rendition, or when it comes close to it. This means that the colors of an object in an image appear to a human observer the same way as if this observer were to directly view the object: A green tree appears green in the image, a red apple red, a blue sky blue, and so on.[source]
False color refers to a group of color rendering methods used to display images in color which were recorded in the visual or non-visual parts of the electromagnetic spectrum. A false-color image is an image that depicts an object in colors that differ from those a photograph (a “true-color” image) would show. [source]
Here is a classic example of a false color image: A forward looking infrared (FLIR) camera (the image to the right). By creating a representation of wavelengths normally invisible to the human eye, we are able to discern the different temperatures present in this scene.
But there are a multitude of reasons for creating false images. Sometimes colors are enhanced, or even added, to represent some characteristic in the image, such as chemical composition, velocity, distance or to simply enhance the differences between materials. Have you ever increased the contrast on your television or an image on your computer so you can better discern some detail? You’ve just created your own false image!!
The same goes for the moon and Mars. With both planets being mostly uniform in their respective colors, creating false images can help us distinguish something as simple as peaks and valleys. Here is an example using the moon:
On the left side is the true color image of the far side of our moon, a mosaic constructed from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter images. This is what you would see if you were to directly observe the terrain. Given the uniform color it is very difficult, if not impossible, to accurately judge the peaks and valleys.
On the right side is a false color image of the same side of our moon, a topographic map of the altitude of the Moon’s surface obtained by the Clementine orbiter mission (1994). Measurements made with a laser altimiter. Redder areas are higher, blue/purple areas lower. [source] (more Clementine images here)
In this instance a false color image was generated of the moon to provide a clear, visual representation of the lunar topography.
In the false color Mars image used at the conspiracy website, it’s very possible NASA color corrected the image for no other reason than to better distinguish the size, shape and locations of the rocks.
The bottom line is, Mars is reddish in color and the moon appears gray. Period. End of story.
I guess my bigger question concerning this conspiracy is, why would the government have any interest in covering up the real color of Mars or the moon (yes, there is a conspiracy out there that the government is covering up the real color of the moon)? I suspect it has something to do with the belief Mars and the moon are actually inhabitable and the Mars/moon color coverup is part of the government’s alien/UFO coverup.
- Mars Exploration Rover Mission (NASA JPL)
- Spacecraft: Surface Operations: Instruments (NASA JPL)
- The Clementine Mission (Lunar and Planetary Institute)
- False color/True Color (Wikipedia)
- Mars, Facts and Information about the Planet Mars (space.com)
- What Is Mars? (NASA)
- Why does Mars look red from Earth? (NASA)
- Big Picture on Mars: NASA Rover Snaps Amazing Red Planet View (space.com)
- Panoramas: Opportunity (NASA JPL)
- Panoramas: Spirit (NASA JPL)
- Mars Rover “Spirit” Images (NASA)
By Kyle Hill via Scientific American Blog Network
True memories fade and false ones appear.
Each time we recall something, the memory is imperfectly re-stitched by our brains. Our memories retain familiarity but, like our childhood blankets, can be recognizable yet filled with holes and worn down with time.
To date, research has shown that it is fairly easy to take advantage of our fallible memory. Elizabeth Loftus, cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory, has found that simply changing one word in a question can contort what we recall. In one experiment, Loftus had participants watch a film of a car crash, and then asked about what they saw. They were either asked “How fast were the cars going when they hit each other,” or “How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other.” One week later the participants returned for some memory questions. Loftus asked whether or not there was broken glass at the scene of the accident. Those participants that heard the word “smashed” were more than twice as likely to recall seeing broken glass than those who heard the word “hit.” Keep in mind, there was in fact no broken glass at the scene.
This kind of insight—that our memories are terrible camcorders of reality—had serious pop culture ramifications. “Repression” and “repressed memories” have entered our culture’s lexicon, without evidential support. Even with numerous accusations of sexual abuse and other childhood horrors filed in court with the explosion of “recovered memory therapy,” the same research pioneered by experts like Loftus has suggested that most if not all of these “repressed” memories are merely false ones. At CSICon, a skeptic’s conference earlier this year in Nashville, Tennessee, Loftus herself noted that the same techniques used to implant false memories in psychological experiments are precisely the techniques used by repression therapists to recover supposedly buried traumas.
Nearly four decades later, Loftus and colleagues aim to further memory science once again. Introducing a false memory in experiment can be done quickly and with some degree of reliability, but how long does the lie last? Surely bolstered by a digital age reverberating with misinformation, the results point to a disturbingly long half-life of lies.
A shocking recent discovery may finally solve the great mystery of how the pyramids were built – and it rewrites history as we know it…
Keith Carson is a Meteoroloigst at WCSH/WLBZ, Maine, USA.
By Signe Dean via ScienceAlert
To a conspiracy theorist, the world is not what it seems. Invisible threads link seemingly unrelated concepts, and there’s no such thing as a random coincidence.
Researchers have been scratching their heads for years over what makes some people more conspiratorially inclined. Now a recent study has finally tracked down one of the faulty thinking patterns. As it turns out, we all use it – but these people use it too much.
A team of psychologists from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam in the Netherlands and the University of Kent in the UK has determined that conspiracy theorists are hooked on something called ‘illusory pattern perception’.
“People often hold irrational beliefs, which we broadly define here as unfounded, unscientific, and illogical assumptions about the world,” the team writes in the study.
“Although many irrational beliefs exist, belief in conspiracy theories and belief in the supernatural are particularly prevalent among ordinary, nonpathological citizens.”
In other words, conspiracy theorists are not “nuts”. They’re totally sane, which makes their beliefs all the more puzzling – until we realise that they actually see the world quite differently.
Illusory pattern perception is a pretty simple concept. It happens whenever we find a meaningful pattern in random stimuli, drawing correlations and even causation where none has actually occurred.
For example, you might have a dream about an elderly relative, and then receive news the following day that the relative has passed away. For some people that would be enough to conclude that their dreams can predict the future.