How fortune-telling works

I am going to tell you that I know to read palms. I then lift up your palm, read the lines on it and tell you that you are an assertive person. Further, I tell you that you demonstrated this by disagreeing with your boss and insisting on doing what you thought was right. Would you agree with me?

The mere mention of a person’s assertiveness triggers memories of their assertive behaviour – instances when they have put their foot down or thrown a tantrum to have things their way. This is regardless of whether the person is generally assertive. All of us have been assertive at some point, and that is enough for the astrologer’s trick to work.

Psychologists call this the focusing illusion. Once we tell people that they are assertive, their mind recollects examples that support this claim. Astrologers, horoscope writers and even personality tests use this to their advantage. When a test declares somebody to be an introvert, instances of their introversion spring to their mind.

We are complicated people – way more complex than the simple lines on a horoscope. When a fortune-teller claims to use the movement of planets to predict our future, they are merely manipulating the movements of our minds.

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