exploiting our willingness to believe

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exploiting our willingness to believe

Postby Hidden Hand » Mon Jul 03, 2006 9:42 pm

From It's often too easy to exploit our willingness to believe by Linda Seebach, June 17, 2006, Rocky Mountain News

"As pattern-seeking primates," {Michael Shermer} says in the introduction {to his book Science Friction: Where the Known Meets the Unknown}, "we scan the random points of light in the night sky of our lives and connect the dots to form constellations of meaning. Sometimes the patterns are real, sometimes not."

That about sums it up, but here I'm going to focus on Shermer's career as a psychic. Note Shermer is not a psychic, and does not claim to be - in fact, he believes as I do that no one is. Nonetheless, he had the opportunity to play one on TV when Bill Nye invited him to be a guest on the show Eyes of Nye and spend a day as an astrologer, tarot card reader, palm reader and psychic medium talking to the dead.

"With almost no experience in any of these psychic modalities, I prepared myself the night before and on the plane flying to the studio, then improvised live- to-tape in studio, managing to completely convince my sitters that I had genuine psychic powers, reducing several subjects to tears when we 'connected' to lost loved ones. It was at this point that I realized the emotional impact that psychics can have on believers, and the immorality of the entire process and industry that has built up around these claims."


and

But people are eager to believe, and easy to fool. I asked Shermer, by e-mail, about what happens when people find out they've been taken in. "My experience with disclosing to subjects that I've been pretending to be psychic is not at all positive. No one has ever said 'Oh, wow, I never realized how easy it is to fake being a psychic, I guess this means I should rethink my beliefs about ESP.' Instead what I always get is anger and resentment that I've tried to take something away, that I'm evil for being a spoiler of a cherished belief, and that it is none of my business," he answered.
Is this a private fight, or can anyone join in?
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Postby Shawnna » Mon Jul 03, 2006 10:09 pm

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Last edited by Shawnna on Mon Oct 30, 2006 9:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Hidden Hand » Mon Jul 03, 2006 10:27 pm

Shawnna wrote:I am surprised it was so easy for this individual to accomplish this though. Must be a very good actor! :lol:


No, you just have to know a few easy rules..

Wikipedia entry on cold reading
Cold reading is a technique used by salespeople, interrogators, hypnotists, psychics, psychologists, graphologists, palmists, astrologers, con men and others to convince another person that they know more about them than they actually do.

Even without prior knowledge of a given person, a cold reader could still quickly obtain a great deal of his subject by carefully analysing his or her clothing or fashion, hairstyle, gender, religion, race or ethnicity, education level, manner of speech, and place of origin. This is called profiling.


..worth reading.. but see also Clever Hans, the horse who learned how to cold read

The Australian Skeptics give a 13 point guide to cold reading - now you can amaze your friends with your psychic powers!

The Skeptic's Dictionary has some more explanation on their cold reading page
Cold reading goes beyond the usual tools of manipulation: suggestion and flattery. In cold reading, salespersons, hypnotists, advertising pros, faith healers, con men, and some therapists bank on their subject's inclination to find more meaning in a situation than there actually is. The desire to make sense out of experience can lead us to many wonderful discoveries, but it can also lead us to many follies. The manipulator knows that his mark will be inclined to try to make sense out of whatever he is told, no matter how farfetched or improbable. He knows, too, that people are generally self-centered, that we tend to have unrealistic views of ourselves, and that we will generally accept claims about ourselves that reflect not how we are or even how we really think we are but how we wish we were or think we should be.


That's the point I was trying to make w/ the lead-off post - it has less to do w/ the psychic's (or "psychic's") "skills" than w/ people's own ability to deceive themselves..
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