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It was 1948, when psychologist Bertram R. Forer made one of the most valid points on why astrology and personality tests tend to be so accurate. For his experiment, he used his students – gave them a personality test and told them that after they finish, he’s going to review the results and a week later would give them all a text that describes their personality. Then they had to rate how much they agree with the result, on a scale from 0 – it’s pretty bad – to 5 – absolutely accurate. The average rating he received was 4.26. How did he made an assumption so accurate, taking into consideration just one short test?
The answer is, he didn’t. What he did was give them all the same result, no matter what they wrote on their tests. It worked, because it seemed to be individually crafted, generally made positive assumptions, and because it was so vague that it applies to a wide range of people. Today, we call that the Barnum effect (also called Forer effect) and we use it to describe why people would give high accuracy ratings to general descriptions. So if you’ve ever wondered how come astrology, aura reading, or personality tests are so damn accurate, you’ve got your answer.
And just to demonstrate the point, here is the result Barnum gave them. Sounds pretty you, right?
1. You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
2. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
3. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
4. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
5. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you.
6. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.
7. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
8. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
9. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof.
10. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
11. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
12. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
13. Security is one of your major goals in life.