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Subjects who, for example, believe in the accuracy of horoscopes have a greater tendency to believe that the vague generalities of the response apply specifically to them. Studies on the relationship between mild symptoms of schizophrenia and susceptibility to the Forer effect have shown high amounts of correlation. Both the Chinese and Western skeptics were more likely to identify the ambiguity in the Barnum profiles. Self-serving bias has been shown to cancel the Forer effect. According to the self-serving bias, subjects accept positive attributes about themselves while rejecting negative ones.

In one study, subjects were given one of three personality reports: one consisting of Barnum profiles containing socially desirable personality traits, one containing a mixture of positive and negative traits, and the last containing profiles full of negative traits also called "common faults". Subjects who received the socially desirable and mixed reports were far more likely to agree with the personality assessments than the subjects who received negative reports, although there was not a significant difference between the first two groups.

In another study, subjects were given a list of traits instead of the usual "fake" personality assessment. The subjects were asked to rate how much they felt these traits applied to them. In line with the self-serving bias, the majority of subjects agreed with positive traits about themselves and disagreed with negative ones. The study concluded that the self-serving bias is powerful enough to cancel out the usual Forer effect.

In a experiment by Bernie I. Silverman, subjects were presented with twelve personality sketches drawn from a set of horoscopes and asked to choose the four that best described them. When the descriptions were not identified by astrological sign, subjects were not particularly likely to pick the horoscope for their own sign.

When the descriptions were labeled by sign, however, subjects were more likely to pick the horoscope for their own sign. Snyder and R. Shenkel carried out a study in which they asked their students to prepare uniform Barnum descriptions for a group of subjects; these descriptions were then presented to study participants under the guise of being individualized horoscopes.

Subjects in one group were not asked for personal information; those in a second group were asked to provide their month of birth; those in a third group were asked for the exact date of their birth. Those in the third group were most likely to say that their "horoscopes" applied to them; those in the first group were least likely to do so. In , Ray Hyman wrote about the way in which palm readers and other such hucksters exploit the Forer effect to take advantage of victims or 'marks'. He provided a list of factors that help these tricksters to dupe their prey. For example, hucksters are more likely to be successful if they exude an air of confidence "If you look and act as if you believe in what you are doing, you will be able to sell even a bad reading to most of your subjects" , if they "[m]ake creative use of the latest statistical abstracts, polls, and surveys" showing "what various subclasses of our society believe, do, want, worry about, and so on", if they employ "a gimmick, such as a crystal ball, tarot cards, or palm reading", if they are alert to the clues provided about their clients by such details as their "clothing, jewelry, mannerisms and speech", if they are not afraid of "hamming it up", and if they use flattery.

Michael Birnbaum , a Professor of Psychology at California State University, Fullerton , has noted that the Forer effect is used by magicians and psychics when they give so-called " cold readings ", as well as by certain TV personalities who claim psychoanalytical expertise and profess to be able to diagnose a guest's psychological problems in a few minutes.

A article explained to marketers how to use the Forer effect to win customers. The main piece of advice was to employ flattery. Do not be fooled by a psychic, quack psychotherapist, or a phony faith healer who uses this trick on you!


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Be skeptical and ask for proof. Keep your money in your wallet, your wallet in your pocket, and your hand on your wallet. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Should You Believe in Personality Quizzes? (The Barnum Effect): An Armchair Introduction

For people with the surname, see Forer surname. See also: Cold reading. Encyclopedia Britannica. Sharing links are not available for this article. I have read and accept the terms and conditions.

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Accepting personality test feedback: A review of the Barnum effect

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