Horoscopes in Psychology. The Barnum effect refers to a psychological phenomenon where an individual positively inclines towards a description befitting their personality yet the description is vague and may apply to a large number of people. The Barnum or Forer effect has been used in explaining the fact that some paranormal practices and beliefs such as aura reading, fortune telling, astrology, and personality tests are widely accepted. The effect is applicable to statements referred to as ‘Barnum statements’ that are usually characterizations and attributions that individuals perceive to be true. Importantly, the Barnum statements are used as some type of con since paying customers are convinced that the statements apply to them and hence believe that fortune tellers and astrologers have paranormal gifts. The presentation of the Barnum statement highly affects its acceptance such that a more personalized profiling will have a high level of acceptability and hence a high likelihood of achieving the Barnum effect.
Horoscopes refer to the astrological diagrams or charts that show the position of the moon, sun, and the main planets. Other names applicable in defining horoscopes include astrological chart, celestial map, star-chart, natal chart, radical chart, cosmogram, chart wheel, or sky map. The usage of horoscopes is usually in showing the position of the planetary objects, sun, and the moon at a particular time and thus this usually indicates the astral disposition at the particular time. As an example, the birth chart is the most popular horoscope and this usually indicates the position of the sun, moon, and planets at the time of birth. In line with this, horoscopes have been applied in astrology such that the position of the planetary objects and the sun as well as the moon during birth defines the individual’s life path and personality. According to Denise (2014), horoscopes have no scientific basis and have been applied as methods of divination. While it uses astronomical linked data that shows the position of the objects, the interrelations and associated interpretations are usually pseudo-scientific.
Horoscopes in Psychology
The most common usage of the term horoscope is in line with the interpretation by the astrologer. Under Chinese astrology, horoscopes are linked to an event’s calendar significance. In the creation of a horoscope, this usually entails drawing the celestial sphere which is the space where the stars and the planets will be positioned. The daily horoscope is usually focused on the moon’s position in determination of the forecasts and changes for the twelve zodiac signs since the moon has a small cycle and its rotation around the zodiac lasts for 28 days. While most newspapers carry daily horoscopes, this is written for the purpose of interesting the reader rather than having a linkage to the sun or other solar system aspects. Horoscopes relate to the Barnum effect since they have been used in constructing descriptions of personality that fall within Barnum statements in astrology.
- A study by Brown et al (2015) seeks to show the validity of horoscopes through the use of priming to predict individual’s performance on logic tests. The study appreciates the notion that previous studies indicate no scientific basis for astrology and while this study does not seek to test the scientific basis of astrology it seeks to establish how priming in horoscopes influences outcomes. In conducting the study, the researchers used a sample of 49 students who were given fictitious Chinese zodiac personality descriptions and then given a Sudoku puzzle for completion. The subjects were also exposed to research statistics refuting or supporting the validity of the Chinese zodiac signs. Outcomes from the study indicate that the priming of the individuals to think in a particular way affected their behavior. Individuals primed positively had better result outcomes than those primed negatively. In line with this, the validity of horoscopes is established through priming that helps advance the Barnum effect.
- The operant conditioning theory by B.F Skinner can be used to explain why individuals believe and participate in pseudo-psychology. From the theory, Skinner notes that learning takes place through the use of rewards and punishment that influences behavior (McLeod, 2018). It is through operant conditioning that an individual creates an association between a consequence and a behavior. Such implies that a behavior that yields pleasant consequences has a high likelihood of being replicated. From this theory, people will believe in pseudo psychology when the predictions given through astrology come to fruition, where this serves as a pleasant consequence. For such an individual, there is a high likelihood of going back to an astrologer or fortune teller in what strengthens behavior. As such, most of the individuals who believe in pseudo-psychology have had a positive interaction where a prediction has become true and thus this has become their operant conditioning. For those who have had a negative consequence, there is a high likelihood of staying away since the consequence was unpleasant. Importantly, this conditioning takes place despite the fact that the pleasant consequence may have still been based on the Barnum effect.