We Are Not So Different


It can be said that many people view self discovery and creation as an integral part of their life goals. Hence we flock those who seem to posses the extraordinary ability help us in this endeavour. In our fascination with such individuals and systems that tell us about ourselves and our futures we lose sight of reason and common sense.
Many people spend enormous amount of money, time and energy on pursuits such as horoscopes, numerology, Feng Shui, personality assessments and fortune telling. Most of the members of our society have at some point come across them and are often intrigued and excited by what they promise. We forget our caution, find ourselves tangled and too preoccupied to realize that we have been duped.
In 1948, psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave a personality test to his students. He told his students they were each receiving a unique personality analysis based on the test’s results and asked them to rate their analysis on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) on how well it applied to them. In reality, each of the students received the same analysis. This went as follows:
You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.
On average, the rating was 4.26. Only after these rat¬ings were pro¬vided did Forer reveal to the par¬tic¬i¬pants that all of them had been pro¬vided with the exact same statement which was assembled from various horoscopes. As can be seen from the profile, there are a number of statements that could apply equally to anyone.
Forer’s experiment was repeated many times by various institutions and even on a TV show.
In 2006, a TV series titled Tricks of the Mind presented a variation of Forer’s experiment again which was conducted by the British magician and mentalist Derren Brown. The fif¬teen par¬tic¬i¬pants in this exper¬i¬ment (from the UK, US and Spain) pro¬vided per¬sonal items to Brown (a traced out¬line of their hand, the time and date of their birth, and a small, every-day ‘per¬sonal object’), and in return were pro¬vided with per¬son¬al¬ity pro¬files such as that above and were asked to mark its accu¬racy out of 100.
The following is a passage from Brown’s statements:
“You have links at the moment with people abroad, which are quite interesting, and will look to yield worthwhile results. You’re naturally a little disorganized. A look around your living space would show a box of photos, unorganised into albums, out-of-date medicines, broken items not thrown out, and notes to yourself which are significantly out of date. Something related to this is that you lack motivation. Because you’re resourceful and talented enough to be pretty successful when you put your mind to things, this encourages you to procrastinate and put them off. Equally, you’ve given up dreams a little easily when your mind flitted elsewhere. There are in your home signs of an excursion into playing a musical instrument, which you have since abandoned, or are finding yourself less interested in. (This may alternatively relate to poetry and creative writing you’ve briefly tried your hand at and left behind you.) You have a real capacity for deciding that such-and-such a thing (or so-and-so a person) will be the be all and end all of everything and be with you forever. But you’d rather try and fail, and swing from one extreme to the other, than settle for the little that you see others content with.”
Brown’s “readings” were more situational and seem to give more details.
Three par¬tic¬i¬pants scored it poorly, between 40 and 50, while the remain¬ing twelve rated the pro-file as highly accurate–one rat¬ing it as 99 percent accu¬rate, while another was so drawn in to the pro¬file that she believed the TV crew had secretly read her diary. Two more felt so revealed by the state¬ment that they refused to dis¬cuss their pro¬file on film.
The participants of Brown’s experiment stated that they expected some vague, ambiguous and general statement that could be applied to most people, Brown managed to dupe most of them.
The three conditions that have to be met for the experiments are: 1) the subject believes that the analysis applies only to him or her, 2) trust in the authority of the evaluator and 3) the analysis must mainly possess positive traits.
The experiments illustrate that such statements that can be applied to just about everyone can be perceived as a illustrating supernatural ability if presented in a certain manner. This technique can be used to gain trust by con artists to exploit us. This method of reading is used in horoscopes, numerology and many other types of readings.
The majority of the people go to see a shaman or a Buddhist monk to seek guidance and direction. Little do they know that most of them are just as clueless as they are but are just better at hiding it. Thousands of hours, energy and money is spent on such destructions. This represents hours, energy and money that could have been used towards innovation and development through rational methods. If we as a society stopped these irrational actions and directed our attention to the problem at hand and its solution instead of seeking shortcuts via supernatural forces; the human race would be much more productive and efficient as a whole and as individuals.

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Posted by on Oct 26 2012. Filed under Community. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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