Forer Effect

The Forer Effect is an phenomenon observed by psychologists. Experiments have revealed a variety of strange tendencies with respect to how human beings reasons. One of these tendencies involves the fact that people are more inclined to accept claims when they believe the claim is made in reference to them. In reality, the claim is general and applicable to a wide variety of people.

One example of the Forer Effect is found in astrology through the infamous horoscope. As a scientifically minded individual, I do not believe horoscopes are accurate. In fact, scientific evidence has shown there is no observable validity to astrology, and a horoscope such as “you will benefit from taking a chance” are incredibly vague. They may even motivate a person to take chances they would otherwise avoid. Thus, they are biasing the results themselves.

Furthermore, psychics are notorious for exploiting the Forer Effect. They rely on beginning with broad questions and slowly leading a person to more and more details. For example, someone may ask a large group “did anyone know someone named Carl, starts with C or K, that is now deceased?” Someone probably fits the description, and that person is asked further questions like “did he have a dog, I am sensing something about the dog – did it pass away?” Then the process may end with the psychic informing them that their loved one is in heaven with their dog and very proud of them. Hearing what they game for, the person is a victim of the Forer Effect. Since the questions were tailored to them, they think something significant is occurring and that the psychic really spoke to their loved one.

Interestingly, I reject horoscopes yet I still read them if I am bored or to see if I can apply some of their suggestions in a useful way. Knowing they are fictions, I attempt to read the other horoscopes. However, I always end up leaning more strongly towards my own. I am a victim of the Forer Effect even when I’m aware of it, which is a considerably interesting observation. If people can be inclined to focus on false ideas despite their logic telling them to do otherwise, can we really stop a master manipulator from causing us to believe something that may be detrimental. “You are better off without them. You could do X and no one would ever find out.” What possible crimes could psychology influence us to commit if we aren’t vigilant? We need to consider things like the Forer Effect and try to use our rationality and suppress any psychological disadvantage we may have.