AlaaShaker's Weblog

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Do we hear what we want to hear?!

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Reading other persons has been a skill we all dreamt of. How many times did you ever feel you really wanted to know how other people think, act, or believe? It’s known to be a skill, but some are far more skilled than others.
I don’t know you, yet let’s see how much I can tell about you ..

Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and reserved. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do not accept others’ opinions without satisfactory proof. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety, and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. 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 a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. People close to you have been taking advantage of you. Your basic honesty has been getting in your way. Many opportunities that you have had offered to you in the past have had to be surrendered because you refuse to take advantage of others. In fact, if you’re not already in some sort of personal service business, you should be. You have an infinite capacity for understanding people’s problems and you can sympathize with them.

Huh? I’m right, aren’t I? Seems like I can see through you! No. These few sentences are known as Barnum Sentences, or having a Forer Effect, and that whole thing is called Cold Reading.

Forer Effect: Is when someone accepts some general or vague description of their personality as being unique to them, even though the exact same description would apply equally well (or equally badly) to everyone – also known as: Barnum Effect, personal validation effect, subjective validation effect.

In 1948, the psychologist Bertram R. Forer tried out an experiment with his undergraduate students. In his experiment, Forer gave a personality test to his students and then, without bothering to even read them, gave back a general personality analysis – the exact same one to each student, taken from a newspaper astrology column. He asked his students to rate his analysis and received an overwhelmingly positive response – his students were convinced that he could “read” their personalities. The same experiment has been performed repeatedly through the decades in a variety of contexts, and the responses continue to be highly positive.

Cold Reading: Is a set of techniques used by professional manipulators to get a subject to behave in a certain way or to think that the cold reader has some sort of special ability that allows him to “mysteriously” know things about the subject.

Cold reading goes beyond the usual tools of manipulation: suggestion and flattery. In cold reading, salespersons, hypnotists, advertising pros, faith healers, con men, and some therapists bank on their subject’s inclination to find more meaning in a situation than there actually is. The desire to make sense out of experience can lead us to many wonderful discoveries, but it can also lead us to many follies. The manipulator knows that his mark will be inclined to try to make sense out of whatever he is told, no matter how farfetched or improbable. He knows, too, that people are generally self-centered, that we tend to have unrealistic views of ourselves, and that we will generally accept claims about ourselves that reflect not how we are or even how we really think we are but how we wish we were or think we should be. He also knows that for every several claims he makes about you that you reject as being inaccurate, he will make one that meets with your approval; and he knows that you are likely to remember the hits he makes and forget the misses.
Thus, a good manipulator can provide a reading of a total stranger, which will make the stranger feel that the manipulator possesses some special power. The above text was a compilation of sentences that belong to Bertram Forer and Sidney Omarr, who both have never met you, yet they offered the above cold reading of you.

We hear what we want ..
The selectivity of the human mind is always at work. We pick and choose what data we will remember and what we will give significance to. In part, we do so because of what we already believe or want to believe. In part, we do so in order to make sense out of what we are experiencing. We are not manipulated simply because we are gullible or suggestible, or just because the signs and symbols of the manipulator are vague or ambiguous. Even when the signs are clear and we are skeptical, we can still be manipulated. In fact, it may even be the case that particularly bright persons are more likely to be manipulated when the language is clear and they are thinking logically. To make the connections that the manipulator wants you to make, you must be thinking logically.

Further Reading:
http://www.skepdic.com/coldread.html
http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html
http://www.channel4.com/science/microsites/M/mindcontrol/behind/clairvoyance.html

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Written by AlaaShaker

February 20, 2008 at 5:56 am

Posted in Personal

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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