Posts Tagged “cold reading”

The experiment asked the mediums to provide readings for unseen volunteers Pic: Dave HughesPsychics are some of the worst sniveling crybabies in the world — after politicians, religionists and ideologues, of course. They hate being tested, and can’t handle being doubted. The mere existence of skeptics is an intolerable burden to them. On those rare occasions when they do submit to being tested, they always have a ready excuse for why their magical powers didn’t seem to work … even if it’s the laughable claim that the mere presence of skeptics caused those powers to fail.

This immaturity proved itself once again in the wake of a recent test of two mediums held at a university in the UK. The BBC reports on the test’s results and the excuses offered by the (failed) psychics (WedCite cached article):

A scientific experiment has found that two mediums were unable to demonstrate that they had special psychic powers.

The test by researchers at Goldsmiths, University of London, tried to establish whether mediums could use psychic abilities to identify something about five unseen volunteers.

The results, carried out under test conditions, did not show evidence of any unexplained powers of insight.

Naturally these psychics refused to concede this test had any value:

But medium Patricia Putt said this experiment “doesn’t prove a thing”.

This Halloween challenge was an attempt to investigate whether professional mediums could demonstrate their psychic powers in a controlled setting – by inviting them to deduce something about people they had never met and could not see or hear. …

But one of the mediums, Patricia Putt, rejected the suggestion that this showed any absence of psychic powers – saying that she needed to work face-to-face with people or to hear their voice, so that a connection could be established.

“Psychic energy” was not likely to work in the setting created for the experiment, she said, and her success rate was usually very high.

I wonder if Putt’s “success rate” is anywhere near as high as the “87 to 90 percent” claimed by fellow psychic Sylvia Browne — whose true measured success rate is exactly zero.

The question left unanswered by Putt’s comment is glaringly obvious: If the test hadn’t been designed properly, and if they knew it wouldn’t work, why would Putt — or any other medium — have agreed to participate in it? The answer is simple: Because they felt they had nothing to lose by going along with it! If the results showed some effect, they could use that to bolster their reputations, but if the results debunked their magical powers, they could claim it was designed wrong (which is what they ended up doing). Had they any courage, they’d concede they lost this “test” and then just shut up about it, instead of sniveling and whining that they’d been treated unfairly. (Those horiffic, insolent skeptics, you see, are forever trying to lay traps in order to destroy them! Or so their juvenile, paranoiac thinking goes.)

The reality of this is, that the results of this test show that any success a “psychic” might have when dealing with a subject face-to-face, can easily by explained, if one realizes they’re using the techniques known as cold reading and warm reading. These, in turn, frequently work, due to human nature, especially subjective validation.

In other words, these psychics use parlor tricks, their observational skills, and their knowledge of basic psychology. That’s hardly a magical power. Rather, it’s crass manipulation, if not fraud.

Photo credit: Dave Hughes, BBC.

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ABC News report on Mark Edward, an admitted phony 'psychic'We all know the phone-in psychics are really “phony” psychics. Or at least, we should. But too many Americans don’t. Even after the legal problems of famous phony psychics like “Miss Cleo”, phone psychic services remain an enormous business. ABC News reports on a man who worked for one of these services and confesses it’s all just make-believe (WebCite cached article):

When the economy tanks, psychics say their business soars.

The psychic industry is a $2 billion a year business, with millions of people still dialing “900” numbers, even after two decades of lawsuits, bad press and bankruptcies. But when someone calls a psychic hot line, does the person on the other end have more insight than anyone else?

Former psychic hot line worker and author of “Psychic Blues,” Mark Edward, says he’s blowing the whistle on his former industry.

“The psychic business is built on lies. There is no supernatural power. You can’t see the future,” Edward says. “We’re in the golden age of the con. There are people coming out of the woodwork that would love to separate you from your money. But people just want someone to talk to. That’s the bottom line.”

These services, of course, use various tactics such as cold-reading and take advantage of the Forer effect.

The ABC News video (which I can’t seem to embed) includes samples of real conversations with “psychics” which show how the phonies use evasive and vague language to appear to know what they actually don’t.

At the end of the interview, Edward reveals why he played at being a psychic:

Also, I was a skeptic the whole time, so I felt like I was doing a [public] service by infiltrating [The Psychic Network].

Hopefully he can provide enough details to government agencies that the service Edward worked for can be sued for fraud.

Hat tip: Skeptics & Heretics Forum at Delphi Forums.

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