Saturday, September 6, 2008

Cold Reading

Imagine that I tell you that I can give you a fantastic meal of succulent corn. Pretend you really want some corn, and my offer sounds great. You hungrily sit down at the table and I get on the table, drop trou and squeeze out a turd onto your plate. You'd probably have to be very, very hungry to dig into that turd and pick out the corn and not notice all the shit. But that's pretty much what cold reading does to people.

At its least offensive, cold reading can be a fun mind trick that shows how much more likely people are to remember things that "hit." We're a species that searches for patterns, and things that "hit" in a cold-read are easy for us to remember, but we seem to be wired to forget things that aren't important - like "misses."

But in the hands of the self-deluded or the intentionally fraudulent, cold-reading can be a cruel trick used to delude the grieving into believing that the cold-reader is in touch with the spirits of lost loved ones. It would be nice if everyone were educated to defend themselves against such malfeasance, but that'll take a lot of work. In the mean time, if you're being victimized by cold-reading, I ask you - how's that turd taste? Push the plate away and find a meal elsewhere.

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