Beware Of The Barnum Effect

Speaker on Podium

I’m about to give you a reading. Let me begin with a few statements of what I’m feeling. While you read this article, I am going to tap into your energy and relay some information relevant to you. Are you ready?

As I connect with your energy I am becoming aware that you have a tendency to be critical of yourself. In the past and often nowadays you tend to believe your aspirations, dreams and goals have been pretty unrealistic. At times you have suffered with serious doubts as to whether you have made the right choices and have questioned whether you have done the right thing.

You have an intense desire to get people to accept and like you. Sometimes you give too much effort to projects and ventures that don’t work out. You prefer change and do not like to feel limited in what you can do.

You are an independent thinker who takes pride in doing things differently than others. Sometimes you can be loud, outgoing, and a people person, but other times you can be quiet, shy, and reserved. You can be overly harsh on yourself and very critical. Although you do have some weaknesses, you try very hard to overcome them and be a better person.

How am I doing? Have I summed you up so far? I suspect I’m right on all of these statements. But did I connect with your energy or is there something else happening here?

I did not connect with your energy. You just became the victim of a recognised psychological phenomenon known as ‘The Barnum Effect’. Everyone falls for this communication flaw where vague statements appear as accurate descriptions relating to our own personality.

The sad news is that it is often deliberately delivered and openly accepted as part of a communication. The Barnum effect can be seen working in many fortune-telling and clairvoyance events. Astronomy is one of the biggest users of the Barnum Effect. Read any horoscope and it will contain vague statements that most of us can relate to.

As I mentioned above, the technique is often delivered by the communicator (often the medium in our work with spirit) without realising they are doing it. It is often used because the communicator needs to establish a rapport with the recipient. Perhaps they are doing nothing other than attempting to gain your trust. Or perhaps they deliver these statements as precursor remarks before establishing a stronger connection.

“I have an elderly person in the spirit world connecting with me now. I feel this person was close to you and feels like the energy of someone that was like a close relation to you.”

Probably, the majority of people can accept the above statement as pertaining to them. However, the accidental deception delivered by the communicator in the vague message is endorsed further when the recipient confirms the statement to be true. Of course, it’s true, but it contains nothing remotely related to evidence of a continuing life.

The recipient agrees with the communicator’s statement because of something known as ‘confirmation bias’. This is when the recipient is open to favouring information that matches their desires, beliefs and values, even if the statement is without foundation or includes nothing of value.

We all use the Barnum effect in our speech more often than we are aware. It is human nature to start with ‘small talk’ to help establish a rapport. But the challenge comes in avoiding it when we act as communicators for the spirit world. Mediums are often described as nothing more than ‘body language’ experts, pouncing on the visible and subtle clues given by the recipient. The Barnum effect is ever present in the medium’s presentation and does nothing to dispel sceptics’ beliefs.

We’ve all witnessed mediums delivering these vague statements that leave us unsure of the evidence that the message was indeed from the spirit. So how can we combat it happening?

  1. As a medium, avoid using vague statements wherever possible. If you’re connected to the spirit of someone in the other world, get clear and concise validations.

  2. As the recipient, be aware of these vague statements and don’t fall for the confirmation bias. Let the medium do the work without your accidental clues.

The only way the medium is going to improve their craft is by connecting to the spirit world and seeking better information. Learn to be braver with your words and stop worrying about your own ego being bruised in the process.

As recipients, we should learn to appreciate the medium from their connection with spirit and the evidence they deliver, not because they are well-known or minor celebrities.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather receive a strong message through an unknown medium than a vague message from a well-known medium. The latter always leaves me wondering why the medium has such notoriety.

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