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The Barnum Effect

The Barnum Effect

Astrology, aura reading, fortune telling, cold calling, and some personality tests all exploit the Barnum Effect: Individuals believe that personality descriptions apply specifically to them but they don't consider that the descriptions actually applies to everyone.

The term was first coined in 1956 by psychologist Paul Meehl. He compared the vague personality descriptions used in some psychological tests to P.T. Barnum, a famous showman.

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MORE IDEAS FROM THE SAME ARTICLE

The Barnum effect is also called the Forer effect. Bertram Forer used a fake psychology test on his students then gave them supposedly individualised results a week later. He asked them to rate how well it applied to them. The students rated the accuracy of the statements at an average of 4.3...

  • Personal analyses: You believe the analysis applies only to you, and you apply your own meaning to the statements. Instead, take a step back and first see if it could not apply to almost everyone else.
  • Perceived authority: You believe in t...

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