So it’s almost the time of year when “psychics” make their predictions for the next 12 months. It is too bad that most people who actually read these predictions will forget what they’ve read before even flushing the toilet. Although it can’t be said that they’re always wrong, they’re most definitely all bullshit. There are a few different varieties of bullshit in psychic predictions, so I’m going to walk you through them and while doing so I will predict some things at you. And I expect them to be at least more accurate than those of the “psychics,” since I am a Capricorn which means that I am a perfectionist. Also I apparently like antiques, now.
One of the most important aspects of pretending to have supernatural powers is the ability to make very general predictions or “readings” which appear to be very specific on the surface. This depends on a psychological phenomenon known as the Forer Effect, which is what happens when people interpret generally human characteristics as exclusive to them personally. For example, people who hear something like the following will identify with it, thinking that whoever is making this kind of “reading” has a deep understanding of them:
“You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
–Forer study, 1948
“Psychics” can and do use the Forer effect to to their advantage by “predicting” current trends to simply continue. So I predict that Buffalo sports teams will disappoint the Western New York area, earthquakes will strike Japan and California, explosions which kill innocent people will occur in Central Asia, and catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes will hurt the poor the most.
This is done more often than you might expect. If something has been happening for a while, it’s a pretty safe bet to say that it will continue. For example, I predict that Australia will experience a drought in 2010 which could exacerbate the effects of possible wildfires. The problem with this prediction is that Australia has been in a drought since around 2000, so this is not something new. Some of the fires they experienced over the past year constituted a national emergency. Nevertheless, I stand by my prediction and if it remains true, I will have COMPLETELY PROVED MY MAGIC POWERS.
And if the drought yields, well, then I can count on people either confusing the 2009 drought with the 2010 prediction or forgetting it altogether.
The constellations are also telling me that American military presence in Afghanistan will sharply increase. Sure, maybe I just read about that in the news, but it’s more fun to imagine that I figured it out with magic. NOW GIMME ALL UR MONEY PLZ. Er, I mean, I will be accepting your kind donations in exchange for, uh, spiritual guidance, or something.
If this were the only kinds of predictions “psychics” made, they would be ignored. Of course the danger with making specific predictions is that most of them will end up being wrong. However, you can depend on confirmation bias in your audience. The people who will be reading your predictions will want you to be right – otherwise they probably wouldn’t be reading it in the first place. So they can be counted on to forget all your failures and over-hype any possible successes. For example, around this time last year SkepChick founder Rebecca Watson predicted that Michael Jackson would die in 2009. Pretty impressive, huh? It doesn’t matter that she made other predictions which failed since that one happened to succeed. Well, at least that’s how it would go if predictions like that one weren’t made in jest by a skeptic.
So with that mind, here are some more predictions of this type: 100 new exoplanets will be discovered, Oprah Winfrey will collapse of a heart attack, there will be a great breakthrough in interspecies communication between humans and dolphins, and a South American political leader will be assassinated.
I saved my favorite category for last. These are just random mixes of “spiritual” sounding words to give the impression that the business of pretending to be psychic has some realm of expertise, even though it doesn’t. That being the case, the non-predictions necessarily have to be New Age gobbledygook. People all over the world will need to achieve quantum consciousness in order to live their best life ever. Science is just another narrative where certain people invent their own reality. Matter doesn’t exist. That kind of thing. Is it giving you a headache yet? Yeah, me too.
So I hope you will all use these helpful hints in order to fool credulous people into devoting their life and savings to you so that you can start your own hedonistic sex cult.