British mentalist and skeptic Derren Brown astounds three groups of young people in Spain, England and the USA by divining incredibly accurate personality profiles of each of them, seemingly based on nothing more than his examination of a drawn outline of their hands, their dates and times of birth and a small personal object.
In fact, Mr. Brown is offering an object lesson in the Barnum effect, also known as the Forer effect. If you can’t spare the eight minutes and eighteen seconds it takes to watch the video – though it’s strongly recommended – you can test the effect for yourself in about one minute by deciding how many of the following statements apply to you:
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, 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.
If that list of statements was supplied by someone presenting themselves as a seer, with all due showmanship and business of palm reading, peering into a crystal ball or calculating numerological correspondences, might you assume that they had a supernatural insight into your personality?