I have just had a birthday so, in a quiet moment, I thought I’d sit down and read my ‘birthday stars’ and see what I can expect to happen in my life for the next 12 months. Oh well, okay—you got me—I actually read every different version of my yearly horoscope I could lay my hands on, trying to find the one I liked best. And then I read everybody else’s horoscopes for 2016 too—because I wanted to see who was going to have a better day/week/month/year than I was. (Don’t give me that look. I know you do that too.)
And . . . surprise, surprise . . . from the ‘overviews’ it looks like I am in for an all-around-great-year—as is pretty much everyone else on the planet, Aries or otherwise . . .
In a nutshell, it seems that I (and therefore presumably everyone else born under the sign of the Ram) can expect the rest of 2016 to be steady, chaotic, challenging, positive, volatile, passionate and erratic. Phew. I’m exhausted already. So, a bit of everything then, but not really anything there to get too upset about. But, thinking back—I don’t recall ever reading a birthday horoscope that told me that I really ought to brace myself as I was in for a really, really, crappy year . . .
Even if I did receive such a dastardly ‘horrorscope’, would that stop me from continuing to read future forecasts, I wonder? Probably not. I’d just do what I did this morning—keep looking for another one that told me all the good things I wanted to hear and ‘believe’ that one instead. So sue me.
I enjoy reading horoscopes—there—I said it. I read them all the time. I even like to read the ones in the tatty three-year-old copies of mags in the doctor’s office or hairdresser’s salon and wonder whether the advice given actually lined up with what was going on in my life at that time. (As if I would actually remember. I have trouble remembering what happened last week, let alone three years ago). It doesn’t really matter. Two minutes after reading, be it old or current, I have usually decided it was all either ‘too good to be true’ and therefore never going to happen, or ‘so not how I wanted this week to go’ that I have blithely dismissed it all as a load of old rubbish and moved on to other things . . .
(And just while I think of it—do they have astrology pages in men’s magazines? (Seriously—I’m asking.) Do Golf Digest or Muscle Car or Fish Life have a full page in every issue devoted to resident astrologers doling out advice to their (mostly) male readers on how they can expect the coming week to affect their personal relationships, career or financial status? Or do the men who desperately want to know these things have to resort to sneaking a look at their wives/daughters/sisters Woman’s Weekly or New Idea (or one of the kazillion other women’s magazines) on offer?)
So why, in spite of my obvious scepticism, am I (and millions of others) driven to read our horoscopes on such a regular basis? I guess one reason is that the majority of the ‘predictions’ given out are positive (at least in the women’s magazines)—and in newspapers and other publications full of doom and gloom at the moment, that makes a welcome change. We like to think that things are ‘looking up’, and it’s nice to have someone else tell you that you are going to get a (possible) promotion at work, or (maybe) receive a financial windfall, or (in all likelihood) meet the love of your life (providing you are paying close attention to all the opportunities out there of course). The fact that these prophecies are so generic that they could apply to anyone, on any given day, at any given time, has very little to do with it.
Apparently this temptation to read personal meaning into a general description is a recognised ‘thing’. (But you knew it would be, didn’t you? You’ve read enough of my scribblings by now to know there was going to be a ‘thing’.) This particular ‘thing’ is referred to (by those in the know) as either the Forer Effect or more commonly (cue the circus music) the ‘Barnum Effect’ (after American showman PT Barnum’s famous line, ‘We’ve got something for everyone’). We are all surprisingly willing, according to psychologist Bertram Forer, to attribute even the vaguest and most generic personality descriptions to ourselves.
In 1948, Forer gave each of his students a personality test, telling them they were receiving a unique outline of their character and asking them to rate its accuracy. In fact, the outline each student received was identical, but each person rated it as an excellent description of themselves. This experiment has been repeated hundreds of times over the ensuing years, always with similar results, and this ‘wishful thinking’ human trait is what horoscope writers (and psychics, mediums, fortune tellers, mind readers, and the like) still rely on to this day.
So, if that has made you at all curious, why not have a go and take the personality test in the link above (go on, do it—just for a lark). I did, and I have to say that the results did sound awfully familiar . . .
But will finding out how gullible and easily duped people apparently are stop me from reading any future horoscopes? Not at all. In fact—after that little exercise I might even contemplate starting to write my own! Although then again, as fanciful as I can be at times, I don’t think even I could have come up with today’s offering—so I’m going to sign off now because I am expecting ‘Some beautiful dreams or visions, perhaps involving angels, spirit guides, or other such beings . . .‘ and, as you can imagine, I’m really anxious not to miss them . . .
Oh yes. One last thing, and a timely reminder . . .