Reader Barnum Effect Feedback


In a recent article for The Inspired Spirit, I discussed a recognisable negative technique that many mediums use in their demonstrations without being aware they are doing so – The Barnum Effect. 

Wikipedia states the following:

The Barnum effect is manifested in response to statements that are called “Barnum statements”, meaning that general characterizations attributed to an individual are perceived to be true for them, even though the statements are such generalizations that they could apply to almost anyone. Such techniques are used by fortune tellers, astrologers, and other practitioners to convince customers that they, the practitioners, are in fact endowed with a paranormal gift. The effect is a specific example of the so-called “acceptance phenomenon”, which describes the general tendency of humans “to accept almost any bogus personality feedback”. A related and more general phenomenon is that of subjective validation.

In the original article, we looked at common phrases that all mediums tend to regularly use that could be associated and accepted by anyone, as described in The Barnum Effect.

The challenge for inexperienced mediums is learning to avoid the general statements that could be considered as B.E. too often in their readings.  Understanding the B.E. will highlight it to the medium and hopefully make them conscious of using it, whether accidentally, or purposely.

From my own experience of receiving readings from other mediums, particularly in a church environment, the B.E. has been far too common. It is this overuse that leaves me, and other congregation members with a feeling of uncertainty from the medium. There is no evidence of a continuing life to be found within a B.E. statement.

After I published the article covering The Barnum Effect, I received a detailed response from a reader. Permission has been granted for me to highlight it here. The reader is pointing out what happens when we witness an inexperienced medium demonstrating.

I have sat through readings which contained many examples of the Barnum Effect. Some of the mediums were well-known. If they asked for a show of hands if anyone recognises the spirit they describe I would indicate if I did. One of the most blatant examples was a medium who told me she had a male spirit who looked a lot like me particularly “around the face”. She then attempted to back this up by even more general statements punctuated by questions about who this spirit was.

Not surprisingly, she felt it was a grandfather or father figure. There was absolutely no evidence that she had any spirit connection. So by the end of the reading I left feeling that she had told me absolutely nothing!! Equally, I have had readings from mediums who were spot on with every statement they delivered and the Barnum Effect was not in use.

Reader name withheld for privacy reasons


The reader went on to remind us that testing institutes, particularly in the USA, are intended to help validate the quality of a medium through specific and stringent testing standards.

Next time you watch a medium demonstration, have an ear open for phrases they use that would come under the B.E. umbrella. Occasionally, the phrase may be entirely appropriate and part of the fabric of a reading. 

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