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Noon Edition

For My Next Trick...

drawing of a brain - sketched

Welcome to the Moment of Science fortune-telling tent. As you can see, I have the lights down low and I'm wearing my special robe with moons and stars on it. Just let me lay down some magical cards...ah, yes...

I see you pride yourself on being an independent thinker, and don't merely accept others' opinions without sufficient evidence. At times you are extroverted and sociable, while at other times you only want to be alone. Your sexual adjustment has presented some problems for you. You are often critical of yourself. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and somewhat insecure inside.

Now that it's clear I know all your secrets, you might be interested to know that this list was compiled back in the 1940s by a psychologist named Bertram Forer, who asked a group of subjects to rate its accuracy as applied to themselves. Although the list was in no way based on them, 16 out of 39 called it as a perfect match. Only five people gave it less than a four-out-of-five for accuracy. Was this magic?

No--only human psychology. Without the tarot cards and crystal balls, we can see that "predicting" what another person is like "on the inside" is relatively easy--all the work is done by the listener. In fact, it's the same human capacity for making sense out of the jumbled data of experience that makes us so easily fooled. The brain naturally seeks out meanings; and under the mysterious shadow of the fortune-teller's tent, general assertion can all-too-easily be mistaken for magical insight.

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