Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Power of Arrogance

Apologies if this is rather forward of me, dear viewer, but I'd like to offer you a personality reading tailored to you and you alone. You've got a keen look in your eyes, I can see you're an interesting one.

[Lights incense and puts on glasses]

Let's see... You're quite the extrovert at social gatherings but I sense there is also a need for solitude - you need to recharge your batteries from time to time. You boldly stick to your principles when challenged but you're open to reasoning when there's a need for it. Friends mean the world to you but you won't let them take advantage or belittle your skills. I'm also getting the impression that your imagination can run wild and needs taming at times but you've got a very down-to-earth approach in the eyes of others.

So, how did I do? Fairly accurate? Yes, I thought so. Don't worry if any of it is unclear, you'll understand it in due time, friend.

[Removes glasses]

Right, now that we're back here in the real world I'll stop being an arrogant arse and start being honest with you. Remember that old joke about you being unique like everyone else? That's essentially what the concept is here - clairvoyants and fortune tellers often make use of the Forer effect, where someone is presented with a statement which could apply to a large number of people (after all, who doesn't need to 'recharge their batteries' once in a while?).

They also rely on a skill called cold reading, where they make use of very broad statements and focus on their correct answers while dismissing their incorrect guesses. Rather than using the power of the paranormal, psychics use the power of arrogance to shift the responsibility onto their clients - it's not their fault for guessing incorrectly, it's your fault for not making the connections quickly enough. This is why they often claim that things will become clear in time - rather than admitting an error, the psychic is relying on their client's confirmation bias to link their vague statements to events which will occur later in time.

If you do genuinely believe in aura reading and powers of prediction I've got good news for you: there's $1,000,000 USD being offered to anyone who can display paranormal abilities under laboratory conditions, courtesy of the James Randi Educational Foundation. I'd be extremely impressed with anyone who passed this test - being a skeptic doesn't mean we'll deny everything unknown, we'll reconsider our stance on a particular subject when we're presented with reliable evidence. Remember, the plural of anecdote is not data.


  1. Haveyou read, 'Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks' by Christopher Brookmyer? Good novelisation of Randi's expositions.

  2. I haven't but I'll look out for it when payday arrives. Completely sold on the title. :)

  3. That challenge should be publicized more aggressively. There's full of witches where I live. If only they weren't filthy rich already... :D

  4. "Remember, the plural of anecdote is not data."

    I like that, alot!

  5. ...Another reader who likes the "plural of anecdote" bit!