10. Psychic Reading
What’s Really Going On: Cold Reading
Cold reading is a technique used by psychics, fortune tellers, mind readers and astrologers to gain seemingly personal information from a sitter, creating the illusion of psychic abilities. Cold readers will gain their information using the body language, age, gender, verbal and non-verbal responses of their sitter in order to build up their insight into the life of the individual.
Take, for example, a psychic show in which the psychic will appear to contact the dead loved ones of audience members. Common techniques will usually consist of high-probability guesses such as “I’m looking for a lady who has lost someone” – as the majority of the audience will be there in the hope of contacting loved ones and at least half of them are likely to be female, this one is a pretty sure shot.
They might then throw out some Barnum statements – these are statements that will seem very specific but can actually be made to apply to most people. These could be a double header such as “You’re very sociable, but sometimes you prefer your own company”; a double negative to which the answer can correctly be both yes and no such as “You don’t have a cat do you?”; or even simple flattery like “You’re a very kind person and this isn’t always fully recognised”, which is something that most people would want to believe about themselves.
In some cases, even the psychic doesn’t know that they are doing this and will genuinely think that the ideas that are popping into their head are being delivered from the spirit world. In other cases, they know full well what they are doing.
A psychic medium will more often use the presence of your dead mum/auntie/milkman/cat to make personal statements about the living sitter, rather than passing on any message more meaningful than “she is very proud of you”, as “proof” that they have been contacted. Oddly, the spirits rarely offer any insight into what it’s like to be dead, surely a pretty big talking point for the recently deceased, no?