When we were young, we always played the guessing game where one person would have something in mind and the other would keep asking how hot (how close) or how cold they were! I would ask my friends, after every guess I made, am I hot or cold? As I got closer to 'solving the mystery,' they would say to me you're getting warmer, or you're burning up! As I was reading, I came across the passage about Cold Reading; cold reading is, as the book puts it, the art of persuading people you know everything about them when you have only just met them! The book highlights various techniques that are used by cold readers. The book describes six techniques that can be used to train any person to duplicate cold reading! They include:
- Tell the person at the outset that you won't be perfect! This would include saying something like 'I have a lot of different vibes because there are a lot of people in the room, so maybe you could help me find out which ones are accurate to you.'
- Stock Spiel: say any general statement that would apply to anyone! This includes saying something like 'You've been struggling emotionally lately.'
- Fish for details with vague questions. This would sound like 'Your father 's name began with M, yes? How about N?
- Sleight of Tongue Technique: rapid fire-guesses. This sounds something like, 'Your boyfriend owns a red car? Your brother? Okay, well someone in your life is thinking of buying a car...'
- Use a prop. Use crystal balls, tarot cards, or a horoscope to make it seem like you're basing your information on something special!
- Population Stereotypes: make a general statement reported by many or most people. This sounds something like, 'You suffered the loss of an animal...maybe a dog?'
- Look for physical cues that can identity with part of the individual's life history. This sounds something like (based off of a large amount of shiny jewelry), 'Your personality is eccentric, you like to draw attention to yourself.'
- Remember that flattery can win anyone over. This sounds something like, 'I see success in your future.'
This seems like a bunch of bologna to me! It's also a little freaky because the people who perform cold readings seem so convincing, but after I read these techniques, it was obvious how many of them they were using! As I thought about the guessing game I played as a child, this 'cold' reading truly seemed so cold and off! It's as if I am making guesses, and the entire time, my friends are telling me I'm cold and completely off- this is what this seems like to me! I think this phenomenon is one of many that corresponds with our need to find connections among what we perceive to be coincidences! So often we confuse coincidences to be meaningful, when in reality, we forget the probability of an event occurring and someone predicting it/having it happen to them.
The thing that was freakiest for me was this link. These cold readings appear to be identical to pseudosciences because this one 'psychic' was able to convince one woman to deny her son legitimate care because of some fake prediction...that reminded me of one of the dangers of pseudosciences that we read about in Chapter 1.
If you want more information about famous self-proclaimed psychics and cold readers, watch this video of John Edwards and this video of a fake psychic reading!, which despite how fake it is, appears so convincing, it's actually uncomfortable to watch!
Now that I've seen the fake cold reading and how well it was pulled off, the most prominent principle of scientific thinking that runs through my mind is extraordinary evidence for exaggerated claims! The techniques named above make it extremely easy to forget this necessity! In addition, we forget how convincing someone can be and we forget to rule out how easily it is to purchase a copy of a Cold Reading book, learn the techniques, and then even make serious money for it! And lastly, talking to the dead is a metaphysical claim, so because we can't necessarily falsify it (especially if someone is skilled at the art of cold reading), we can't accept it to be true either because then we run into the Appeal to Ignorance Fallacy!