The Forer/Barnum effect is not only in divination....


The Forer or Barnum effect is known as the effect produced on people by a sufficiently vague and general description of the personality and situation, with which it is inevitable to associate, together with continuous personal validation. They are vague and ambiguous writings, which end up fitting the issue of interest. It is mostly used in personality descriptions. In this way, the Forer effect is presented as a commonly used tool among astrologers, tarot readers and fortune tellers of all kinds. It is related to predictions, and considering that a completely random act was predicted in the cards or the horoscope, where it is assumed that no data was specified: for example, reading in a horoscope "sometimes things don't go as you would like, But you will get over it." I don't know how to specify the topic, the severity, or the moment. Each person will associate it with a different thing, from the death of a family member to burning dinner.

There is also the phenomenon of apophenia. An experience through which we tend to associate the events that happen to us, in a relationship of interest or consequence, which is sometimes called synchronicity. It is what happens when we think that it is a key moment that it is 11:11 or 22:22, or when something good or bad happens to us and our mind associates it with something we did previously, for example, when thinking that something Something good or bad happens to us to balance out how bad or good our day was going. Or when we carry an object or wear a color on a day that turns out to be very good, and we turn that object into the amulet to wear when we seek success or well-being.

However, there are extensive studies that demonstrate the application of both phenomena in very different areas: mainly, from job interviews to advertising, including medicine, literature, sex or religion.

Although it is a psychological work that is applicable to the techniques of commercial services in general, the truth is that with regard to general notions and information, in recent years, with regard to the popular level, only is linking to esotericism, and furthermore, linked to a quite aggressive criticism that deliberately attacks freedom of belief (not to mention that religion is almost never spoken of in the same derogatory tone), but also the underlying development of divination techniques, which, regardless of whether you believe in them or not, have a strong historical, sociological and cultural link.

All occult sciences and esoteric arts fall into pseudoscience and belief, so that, like this, it ends up being something unprovable. Its effectiveness has a great psychological basis, therefore, what is demonstrable are the psychological effects that certain acts or messages can produce. Most studies regarding luck usually have an estimate of around 80% of the population believing in it. And in this percentage they were divided between those who believed that people are "born" with good or bad luck, and those who believe that good luck can be obtained and bad luck rejected. Those who believed in good luck were more prone to certain superstitions or to carry a talisman or amulet for special situations, and they took the edge off failures. For their part, those who believed in bad luck did not see such simple solutions and opted for conformity. We are talking, then, about psychological tools, and, in some way, a complement to thought, a support, for better or worse.

In another example of Forer/Barnum effect testing, two groups were created for which astrologers would perform a personality and environment description. One of these groups was asked month and year of birth, and the others were asked day, month and year of birth. The results of the first group were more satisfactory than those of the second, presumably because by having one more indication, the results "risked" determining a specific characteristic, whether created by astrologers or extracted from their manuals. In this way, the first descriptions would have been more general. And while believers were disillusioned by the errors of astrologers, skeptics were thrilled by the good results. Likewise, it is proven that the Forer/Barnum effect affects believers and skeptics alike. And this is the point: because of its generalist approach, it affects, directly or indirectly, anyone. Because? There seem to be three factors: personal analysis, the perception that the person saying it is an authority in their field, and of course, that positive content is transmitted to us.

Taking a fortune teller's statements, or the development of a spell, as absolute truth, can be a terrible method if the obsession ends up leading to individual incapacity, anxiety and fear. But believing in it, in itself, with a sufficient critical spirit, without obsession, and considering that something "has influenced" or "is related," is not a crime. In fact, traditional magic is based precisely not on absolute effectiveness, but on affectation, on the relationship between acts. Its logic is simple: if in earthly life knowing the lesson means that you pass your exam, in spiritual life there will also be relationships that allow good results to be obtained. It is something that every human being applies at some point in their life.

On the other hand, to say that the Forer effect only occurs in the reading of the horoscope or the cards is to deny the fundamental reality of marketing: the attention of the public. Actually these attribution, confirmation, framing and decoy effects are, above all, cognitive biases that marketing campaigns take advantage of. How many advertising slogans have we seen in which they tell us that their product is: "for people like you." Or where owning their product, whether it be a perfume or a technological item, makes us, involuntarily, feel better or superior. Without mentioning any brand, everyone reading this has at least two or three in mind, it is inevitable. And often the intended audience is so broad that this ambiguity is rightly necessary. Only children are partly spared from these messages, since those who buy the toys and candy are adults. Well, the same thing happens with esoteric attraction: speaking of the Tarot Fool as a person different from the rest, who seeks his own path even if no one understands him, uses the same method so that the person who finds himself at a crossroads is convinced that his The final decision is the valid one, that of the one who, with the latest technology or fashionable shoes, shows an "authentic" image of himself, like the one shown by everyone else.

In marketing and advertising, it is curious how protests towards this sector always focus much more on quantity than quality. There are proportionally few articles and scarce reflections on the misuse of the Forer effect in current advertising, and curiously most of them are found in the field of psychology, emphasizing the creation of needs that cross the border of the physical and affect the mental health, not only of those who have some emotional or self-esteem deficiency, but also little by little diminish the critical spirit of society.

And, in fact, even using the Forer effect in a web article or in social networks, emphasizing its use in divination, is a prodigious marketing technique, knowing that it is a topic that attracts a lot of attention, and that so much the practitioner and/or believer and the one who considers it a pseudoscience will enter your link to see what opinion, positive or negative, they agree with. In this way, it can be confirmed that the "involuntary" campaign of attacks on esotericism under the name of the Forer effect or Barnum effect is really a simple way to obtain views and visits. Would "Forer" criticize the news with gruesome and lurid, morbid details that seek to induce fear in the population? Probably not, because, unfortunately, they attract too much attention.

And what about other environments? Apophenia and the Forer effect, then, can be found, in depth, in almost all areas, especially in those in which the act-reward doublet exists, but never real in all its percentage or expressed clearly, and the recipient of The messages are interpreted exclusively in their interest: the use of the Forer effect in job descriptions has recently been criticized, since they are not positive for either the employee or the employer, seeking "excessively open" profiles that do not correspond to reality. searched. Likewise, it is continuously applied in the famous personality tests. We find other examples in religion, where there is apophenia and the Forer/Barnum effect in the most emotional visions of it, such as the good deeds-reward doublet, or the messages of general acceptance to the faithful. Likewise, in medicine, in relation to the placebo effect and the acceptance of unpersonal diagnoses due to ignorance of the situation, or due to the assimilation of routines, objects or exercises of unknown effectiveness; in promotion in the world of work or in love toxicity, in its act-reward, action-reaction doublets; in the aforementioned world of fashion, or, recently, also very visible in the stereotypes of youth literary and cinematographic entertainment, where the protagonists are "standard" models who show different "standard" clichés so that any reader or viewer feels identified. and accompany the character on his path to the "other role model."

The serious warnings surrounding the Forer effect are based on the anomalous learning it can lead to. In the mediocrity aura, the intermediate point, is where the key to all matters, belief and life usually lies.

Pietro V. Carracedo Ahumada -


-Stuart A. Vyse Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition - Updated Edition. OUP USA, 2013

-Leonard Zusne, Warren H. Jones. Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking. Psychology Press, 14 ene 2014

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