The P.T. Barnum Effect: Ignoring the extraordinary nature of claims

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Fortune tellers have always been known for being sufficiently vague and arbitrary about everything they predict for an individual. Their predictions could in fact apply to anyone else who is even slightly similar to the given person. (An interesting incident that illustrates this is seen in the short story The Fortuneteller by Karel Capek).
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It is a proven fact that people find it exceedingly difficult to pick out a prediction which was made for them from other predictions as they are all so similar. Regardless of this, when they are told only their own prediction they are more than eager to say that it applies to them and that it's "spot-on". This phenomenon is known as the P.T. Barnum effect and it is also seen in things like tarot card readings and horoscopes.
When reading one's horoscope, if one took the time to also read other horoscopes the similarity between them all would be inescapable. The P.T. Barnum effect explains the reason for ignoring the principle of extraordinary claims by using the principle of confirmation bias.
People tend to believe what they're told and what they read in the case of horoscopes- they do not consider the fact that it is nigh impossible to tell a person's fortune by any means that are scientifically verifiable. They refuse to look for the extraordinary evidence that is required as proof for horoscopes, tarot card readings etc.
More information about the effect can be found here.

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This page contains a single entry by gunda007 published on November 20, 2011 7:23 PM.

Does Birth Order Really Define our Personality? was the previous entry in this blog.

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