Forer effect

From Academic Kids

The Forer effect (also called personal validation fallacy or the Barnum effect after P.T. Barnum) is the observation that individuals will give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality that supposedly are tailored specifically for them, but are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. The Forer effect can provide a partial explanation for the widespread acceptance of some pseudosciences, such as astrology, graphology and fortune telling.

Contents

Forer's demonstration

In 1948, psychologist B.R. Forer gave a personality test to his students, and then gave them a personality analysis, supposedly based on the test's results. He invited each of them to rate the analysis on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) as it applied to themselves: the average was 4.26. He then revealed that each student had been given the same analysis:

"You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the 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. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic."

Forer had assembled this text from horoscopes.

Horoscopes

The Forer effect is used heavily in horoscopes in various publications as a way to entice readers into believing in astrology and its powers of prediction. However, note that the Forer paragraph is a statement that really does apply to most people. Therefore it is not surprising that most people reported that it was a good description of themselves. Therefore the experiment demonstrates only (and quite well, actually) that the complacency of antiastrological critics can lead them into accepting poor logic.

Variables influencing the effect

Later studies have found that subjects give higher accuracy ratings if the following are true

  • the subject believes that the analysis only applies to them
  • the subject believes in the authority of the evaluator
  • the analysis lists mainly positive traits

External link

References

  • Forer, B. R. (1949). The fallacy of personal validation: A classroom demonstration of gullibility. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 44, 118-123.

See also

he:אפקט פורר ja:バーナム効果

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