Forer effect


Forer effect

The Forer effect (also called personal validation fallacy or the Barnum Effect after P. T. Barnum's observation that "we've got something for everyone") is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. The Forer effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some pseudosciences such as astrology and fortune telling, as well as many types of personality tests.

A related and more generic phenomenon effect is that of subjective validation (Marks, 2000, p. 41). Subjective validation occurs when two unrelated or even random events are perceived to be related because a belief, expectancy, or hypothesis demands a relationship. Thus people seek a correspondence between their perception of their personality and the contents of a horoscope.

Forer's demonstration

In 1948, psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave a personality test to his students. Afterward, he told his students they were each receiving a unique personality analysis that was based on the test's results and to rate their analysis on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) on how well it applied to themselves. In reality, each received the same analysis:

Only after the ratings were turned in was it revealed that each student had received identical copies. On average, the rating was 4.26.

Forer had assembled this text from horoscopes.

Variables influencing the effect

Later studies have found that subjects give higher accuracy ratings if the following are true:
* the subject believes that the analysis applies only to them
* the subject believes in the authority of the evaluator
* the analysis lists mainly positive traitsSee (Dickson and Kelly 1985) for a review of the literature.

ee also

*List of cognitive biases
*Cold reading
*John Edward

References

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External links

* [http://homepage.bluewin.ch/Ysewijn/english_Barnum.htm An autotest]
* [http://forer.netopti.net/ Online test demonstrating the effect]
* [http://www.skepdic.com/forer.html Skeptic's Dictionary: the Forer effect]
* [http://www.csicop.org/webmaster/randi/randi-astrology.rm The Forer effect demonstrated with horoscopes] (video, RealMedia format)
* [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btP_vy5cQq4 A demonstration of the Forer effect] by Derren Brown
* [http://www.dbskeptic.com/2008/03/11/astrology-is-the-forer-effect-in-action/ The Forer Effect evidenced in astrology]


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