Horoscopes are commonplace these days, not only found in the back pages of the newspaper, but also all across the Internet. Personally, I don’t find myself seeking out my horoscope, but on occasion I do end up stumbling across it and, of course, I read it.
Do I believe it? Do you believe yours? Do you find yourself applying what it says to your personal life, believing that what is says will come true no matter what?
Not to burst your bubble, but science thinks that the horoscope is…well, BS.
Is My Horoscope a Generalization?
According to science, you may be likely to accept a generalization (a statement that will feel like a truth to nearly everyone) to be specifically true of yourself. It’s called the “Forer effect,” sometimes known as the “Barnum effect.”
In 1948, psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave his students a personality test. Despite their real answers, he gave them all the same fake responses:
- 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.
The students were asked to respond on a scale of 0 to 5, with 5 meaning that the description was an excellent evaluation of their personality and 0 meaning the description did not describe their personality at all. The average class response was 4.26.
What does this prove?
What does this prove? That people are likely to believe vague generalizations about themselves so long as they are generally positive. In fact, studies have shown that people who didn’t originally believe in astrology actually accepted their horoscope and increased their belief in astrology as a whole if the horoscope tended to be generally favorable.
I guess it goes to show that human beings are grasping for cosmic answers to our struggles, even if those answers are generic.
|Psychology Today: We’ve Got Something For Everyone – The Barnum Effect