The Forer effect occurs when a person accepts as valid a statement about himself , because he believes that it comes from a safe and trusted source. In other words, people are victims of the fallacy of personal validation, and accept as their own and reliable generalizations that can be valid for any individual. This is related to astrology, divination, graphology, aura reading, and some types of personality tests .

The Forer Effect is sometimes called the “Barnum Effect”. This term was coined in 1956 by the American psychologist Paul Meehl in his essay “Wanted – A Good Cookbook”. In the article he tells how the showman PT Barnum managed to deceive several people through personality descriptions based on pseudo-correct questionnaires.

Where is the Forer effect born?

The Forer effect was born in 1948 when psychologist Bertram R. Forer offered a group of students a series of statements as a result of a personality test and asked them to rate them according to how true they believed them to be. What the students were unaware of was that he gave everyone the same description of his personality.

personable and sociable, while at other times you are introverted and reserved. Some of your expectations may be rather unreal, “the description read.

Forer asked them to rate the accuracy of the results on a scale of 0 to 5 , where a 5 meant that the student felt the results were actually valid and accurate, while a 0 meant that they were unrelated to reality. The average of the class evaluation was 4.26, which indicates that the vast majority accepted the statements as true. The description had been copied from a random magazine astrology column .

How does it work?

For the Forer effect to be valid, two factors must be present simultaneously. First of all, the description given must be important with special emphasis on the ratio between positive and negative traits. On the other hand, the subject must sufficiently respect the authority from which the statements come to believe the evaluation he is making.

Most of us are vulnerable to the Forer effect . One reason is that there is usually nothing you can disagree with with the statements, as most present two options. “You are A but sometimes you are B.” This is impersonal enough to fit any human being. Example: ” You are very good but sometimes you do bad things .” Anyone would accept this analysis as good. Another reason is that some divinatory arts such as the horoscope or the tarot make readings of the future. We humans love to have control over everything. The future is uncontrollable, but thanks to these arts we feel that for a moment we know what is going to happen and we have the power to change or avoid it.

Elle Mcdonald

I am Elle Mcdonald Specializations in Psychology . Graduated in psychology from the University of Tennessee in 2000. Diploma of Advanced Studies in the Department of Personality, Evaluation and psychological treatments with excellent results.

First Level of Master in Clinical Psychology at the Center for Behavioral Therapists (recognized with a scientific-professional nature by the College of Psychologists)

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