For someone new to reading this thread, here are a series of posts, starting April 17 th
describing a mundane, learnable method of social influence.
It is an ancient technique that is now termed 'cold reading.'
This can be used to convince people that someone else has the ability to read minds.
] This page and the page that follows gives a series of vignettes describing various ways cold reading has been done.
Not all cold readings are done by malicious manipulators.
Some readings are done by astrologers, graphologists, tarot readers, New Age healers, and people who genuinely believe they have paranormal powers.
They are as impressed by their correct predictions or "insights" as are their clients and patients. We should remember, however, that just as scientists can be wrong in their predictions, so pseudoscientists and quacks can sometimes be right in theirs.
There seem to be three common factors in these kinds of readings.
1)One factor involves fishing for details. The psychic says something at once vague and suggestive, e.g., "I'm getting a strong feeling about January here." If the subject responds, positively or negatively, the psychic's next move is to play off the response. E.g., if the subject says, "I was born in January" or my mother died in January" then the psychic says something like "Yes, I can see that," anything to reinforce the idea that the psychic was more precise that he or she really was.
If the subject responds negatively, e.g., "I can't think of anything particularly special about January," the psychic might reply, "Yes, I see that you've suppressed a memory about it. You don't want to be reminded of it. Something painful in January. Yes, I feel it. It's in the lower back [fishing]...oh, now it's in the heart [fishing]...umm, there seems to be a sharp pain in the head [fishing]...or the neck [fishing]."
If the subject gives no response, the psychic can leave the area, having firmly implanted in everybody's mind that the psychic really did 'see' something but the subject's suppression of the event hinders both the psychic and the subject from realizing the specifics of it.
If the subject gives a positive response to any of the fishing expeditions, the psychic follows up with more of "I see that very clearly, now. Yes, the feeling in the heart is getting stronger."
Fishing is a real art and a good mentalist carries a variety of bait in his memory.
For example, professional mentalist and author of one of the best books on cold reading, Ian Rowland (2002), says that he has committed to memory such things as:
the most common male and female names and a list of items likely to be lying about the house such as an old calendar, a photo album, newspaper clippings, and so on.
Rowland also works on certain themes that are likely to resonate with most people who consult psychics: love, money, career, health, and travel.
Since cold reading can occur in many contexts, there are several tactics Rowland covers. But whether one is working with astrology, graphology, palmistry, psychometry, rumpology, or Tarot cards, or whether one is channeling messages from the dead as many mediums claim to be doing, there are specific techniques one can use to impress clients with one’s ability to know things that seem to require paranormal powers.
(Or make it seem your gadget has the power)
Another characteristic of these readings is that many claims are put in vague statement form ("I'm getting a warm feeling in the crotch area") or in the form of a question ("I sense that you have strong feelings about someone in this room. Am I right?") Most, but not all, of the specific claims are provided by the subject himself.