Why are psychic or cold readings done

Throughout history, man has sought to understand, predict and control his life and nature. In primitive cultures, primitive religion emerged, with totems and other ritualistic procedures. Usually, a special person or craft developed these aspects of prediction and understanding, the medicine man or shaman. Gradually, in our western tradition or heritage, we find the emergence of empiricism and cosmology, the naturalistic study of the cosmos or, universe. A second route to knowledge was opened and moved away from religion and knowledge by revelation or divine revelation. However, religion or the non-scientific approach to understanding is still popular today. People love a little mystery, romance, intrigue, and they still like to know about themselves and the future.

Psychology has learned much about the behavior of people. One facet of man is that under conditions of stress or uncertainty, the search for information is increased. Thus, when people are uncertain or insecure, they are likely to search for answers. This search may lead them to seek out the seer or psychic reader.

We also know that people who have lost a close friend or family member may seek to establish communication with that person, whether a Bishop Pike or a Houdini, a grieving parent, spouse, or child. Religious rituals, seances, and other forms have long been a part of man's behavior.

People need contact, social support. Lack of relatedness with others leads to a condition known as morassmus and, in infants, institutional morassmus is a known and described condition. Even Harry Harlow demonstrated this effect in monkeys, using surrogate wire and terry-cloth mothers. The organism withers, fails to thrive. It has been claimed that psychiatrists are basically hired listeners or rented friends. The service of authenticating the worth of the individual, of paying them attention, of helping them feel special is an important role and one that is needed. The psychic may well serve this need.

In a similar vein, a person who is insecure about a specific condition will seek information. Many a person has come with specific questions about the fidelity of a spouse, the likelihood of getting a job, a better or different job, a promotion, or for advice in making an investment. Some wish to know about the health or welfare of a friend or relative.

Depending upon the location, the person may be a drop-in type of client, as in a psychic fair. Often these people are more curiosity seekers, and desire to be entertained. These people are perhaps less vulnerable, but at times may be more shaken by events than those who have had exposure to a variety of psychics and are more aware of the fallibility of different readers.

Public Performances. The psychic entertainer who is putting on a public show or demonstration is working in a somewhat different vein than the person who is doing a private reading. There is no confidential nature to the reading. However, the astute performer realizes that there is still a self-selecting principle at work. Generally, those in attendance will be more interested than the general public, and those that arrive early and sit in the front are more interested and involved. They are also likely to be better subjects to work with.

In public performances, the readings are much faster, brief in nature, and may be incidental to other effects, a part of a question and answering routine, or an entire show in and of itself. The entertainer may make a few quick and brief comments about the character or nature of the person that are the "basis" for the performer's ability to make a particular prediction, or may do a more direct reading as a part of an effect. For example, in doing a variation of the living and dead effect, each card can be returned to the respective person by doing a brief reading on the handwriting and impressions of the person whose card the performer is returning. Here, the person being read is much less exposed and/or vulnerable in general. The chief purpose is clearly to entertain, and except for an occasional awkward or embarrassing moment, pose little in the way of ethical problems (however, legal considerations which vary from locality to locality must not be overlooked).

Generally speaking, little specific information is given, and certainly, no advice. The question and answer may be used in such a way as to include a little cold reading in the response or answer. However, it is quite possible to do an entire program based only upon cold reading.

This would be a part or even the entire program given for a group ranging perhaps from 7 to 25 people, perhaps a social club or civic organization. Again, quick readings for each of assembled group, which may accompany and either precede or follow a general lecture.

One-on-One. The one-on-one reading is a private affair and most often involve a quasi-counseling flavor. The reading may involve the use of s or aids such as a crystal ball, tarot cards, or birth data. The reading be done at a booth or table in a public place such as a restaurant, a shopping mall, a side table at a party, or may be done in the office or home of reader. The time may range from a 5 or 10 minute quick reading to an hour or more. In this type of reading, the information is tailored to the individual being read and is the most likely to involve the use of information or feedback from the client.

In this situation, the client is likely to come to the reader for a specific purpose, which may range from entertainment to intimate counsel and advice. Reasons for the popularity of readers, as opposed to trained psychological type therapy or counseling, range from the immediate availability, the cost, the lack of threat in seeing a member of the establishment, avoiding the label of "sick", to seeking magical answers to questions. Regardless of the reasons, the person who seeks a one-on-one audience with a reader is in a much more vulnerable position, and the dangers from unwitting comments and advice are much greater. We strongly recommend that if your needs, your personal motives, include the need to impress others with your powers, that you stick to entertainment.

Small Groups and Parties. Small groups would include talks given to organizations ranging from a women's social to formal groups such as a Lions Club to purposive groups such as a sales meeting. Parties are most likely evening events hosted in a home or banquet facility. The readings are brief and public, and may be done either as a demonstration of reading or as a part of some other effects such as Annemann's Pseudo Psychometry. The function is primarily entertainment, introduction, or motivation. The cultivation of potential private clients is often a secondary goal of the reader/entertainer. Readings are kept short, lively, humorous, and superficial.

In such situations, versatility is a must. The performer must have a variety of readings or approaches, as a single reading repeated over and over will, surely lose its impact. The ability to generate different approaches, to contrast readings or people, is a basic skill, especially if the readings are heard by other people at the gathering. However, the angle-proof nature and ability to perform under almost any conditions make cold reading a skill that is perhaps unsurpassed in the entertainment field.

Formal or Stage Shows. The readings performed in this context are less flexible and spontaneous, and are planned to fulfill a particular part of a larger program which may range from a question answering act to traditional mentalism show. These presentations may involve prior information from or about selected individuals. They are done in front of a larger audience, often from an elevated platform, and are least likely to involve ongoing feedback from the individual during the course of the reading.

Since the pressure is on the performer, it is likely that these readings will be a stereotyped presentation or at least require prior planning as to the specific people in the audience to be used. Speed, entertainment value to the entire audience, and pacing are of utmost importance.

Impromptu Readings. Rare indeed is the "Psychic" or mentalist who has not been confronted with the request to "read my mind", or who is asked perform or demonstrate "on the spot." This is where the skilled psychic reader has a powerful tool that is not dependent upon props or equipment whether the reading is presented as psychometry, astrological information, or just the aura of the person, it is a very handy skill. The need to always carry a crystal ball or a deck of cards is certainly less demanding than for those poor individuals who would have to carry doves, the boxes, and - heaven forbid - elephants. The individual who is always prepared, even sitting beside the ocean or swimming pool does have an advantage.

Impromptu readings are done "on the spot", without prior preparation, and may be a part of some other activity, a part or the whole of a small group or party activity, or of a show. The spontaneous nature gives them a great deal of power.

Again, the versatility of being able to cold read is unsurpassed. Having a variety of techniques ranging from psychometry to palm reading to auras is wise. Whether you decide to respond with a put-off such as 'You think I will read your mind for free" or to do a brief reading is up to you. But always being prepared is a decided advantage. If it is a spontaneous request, then probably entertainment and brevity is the rule. However, there will be times when you may be called upon to do more than that, and it becomes an impromptu show, involving more lengthy readings and several or even a goodly number of people. In public and multiple readings, the ability to generate a variety of different readings is a crucial and paramount skill.

Scheduled Readings. Scheduled readings may be either the anticipated one-on-one or as a planned part of a program. They permit the arrangements that may facilitate the outcome, having a tarot deck, birth data. Or other supports as well as the possibility of collecting some data or Information to be used in the course of events. These can be planned. Rehearsal of specific aspects, data, or whatever make reading somewhat easier for the novice or non-professional performer. Scheduled readings would include the private reader who works in a home, the psychic reading at a psychic fair, and the performer who is scheduling a reading as a part of an act. Scheduled readings will generally require more specific information and greater detail than other types. It is here that the ability to read the person's responses, to get feedback, becomes more important. The scheduled reading is also far more likely to involve a counseling aspect, and hence the need for caution and ethical awareness.

As Part of An Effect. The performer who has not incorporated a little psychic reading to sell or enhance an effect has missed a very powerful tool. Tactfully and artfully done, a brief explanation of your understanding of the person enables you to make the prediction of an outcome. For example, in equivoque, it can make the difference between a clever magic trick or puzzle and a true miracle. It is one of the greatest forms of misdirection available.

A word of caution is in order here. A brief explanation does not mean a drawn out and boring presentation to the audience. Remember that a presentation is never boring to the performer. You may enjoy it, but the audience may not. Clever little asides to make the individual feel special or unique are always appropriate.

Entertainment vs. Counseling. One of the authors is a professor at a large metropolitan college and teaches a paranormal and parapsychology course. As such, he has a degree of exposure to people in a different setting than most readers or practitioners will achieve. The horror stories, accounts ranging from mild concern and anxiety to major trauma, are enough to almost make one a crusader for the abolishment of "psychics" of any kind.

As a consequence, it is suggested that any time you are doing a reading, even an effect that involves a brief profile, consider that what you are doing may subsequently have a major impact upon the self-concept and the self-esteem of the individual. Whatever your intentions, be exceedingly careful about your phrasing of any comments. Listen to yourself on tape. Have others listen with you. Watch for such phrases as "you allow others to treat you like a doormat, to take advantage of you," and replace them with something akin to "I sense you might profit from becoming more assertive." Realize that just as a prediction "you will meet someone named (like, looks like, who is)..." is likely to be fulfilled, so may any inference or statement about physical or emotional condition become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You are a planter of seeds. The seeds that you plant in the mind of the other person are potentials. They may be positive potentials, the potential for travel, for better financial conditions, for happiness, for an improvement in the number and nature of relationships, or you may inadvertently plant negative potentials. Most people have had an experience in which a remark about not looking so good totally ruined the rest of the day for that individual. Research has documented the role of expectancies in physical health and illness. You are planting seeds!

Perhaps you will remember, each time you do a reading, and certainly every time you make any kind of statement about what might happen, even what the person might watch out for - or other cautions - you may be determining that person's future. Be very, very careful!!!

Style. Within the ethical constraints mentioned above, develop your own personal style. Find something that fits within your own character. Your style may be the mile-a-minute chatter. It may be the slow almost trance-like groping for words. It may be touched with humor, or it may be earnest and empathic. What works for one may not work for others. You may not have the personality to fit a particular style that you admire in someone else. Experiment. Try different presentations. Get feedback from others.

In the sections that follow, there is sufficient material and formats to enable roughly 132.987 different presentations without a repeat, and that is a conservative estimate.


There are many aspects of psychology that are relevant to performing in the psychic arena. The research in the areas of person perception, language and thought, developmental and social psychology is a rich source of material for the person who wishes to understand everyday human behavior. There is even research on how and why people are misled by "psychics" that is very useful.

The "Barnum Effect" describes how a general personality profile that fits everyone will be accepted as accurate when given to an individual, especially if it is tied to some individuating or credible source such as birth date. Most readers are probably familiar with the now classic example developed by Forer in 1949.

"You have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused energy which you have not turned to your advantage. While you have some personality weaknesses. You are generally able to compensate for them. Your sexual adjustment has presented some problems for you. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure 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 pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do not accept other opinions without satisfactory proof you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times, you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic."

In 1982, Robert Duetsch altered the situation somewhat. He shortened the description and then wrote a reversed description. His findings indicate that either of two revised descriptions will be just as acceptable as long as there is some individuating information, some particular or unique information requested from or about the individual as a basis for the reading.

1. "You have a strong need for other people to Like you and for them to admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. Your sexual adjustment has presented some problems for you. Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside. At times, you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others."

2. "You are basically self-sufficient: you don't have a strong need for other people to like you and for them to admire you. You tend to accept yourself as you are, rather than be critical of yourself. Sexual adjustment has not presented problems for you. Although you may appear to be worrisome and insecure on the outside. you tend to be disciplined and controlled inside. You seldom have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You are quite frank in revealing yourself to others."

Thus, almost any given tendency will apply to nearly everyone some of the time. When delivered with an air of confidence, when there is some basis for the individual to assume credibility of the source, and when it has apparent individuation, the psychic has an almost unlimited realm from which to draw.

One of the authors (TS) has explored this principle by discussing "cultural and regional" personalities. For example, in conversations about predictions based on palms or stars, he has brazenly stated that he feels much can be determined by the place and year of birth, often even when the person moved from that area as an infant. He then proceeded with the stock reading presented in the astrology section of this book. He has yet to have anyone criticize the limits or accuracy of the "Regional Personality," and, in fact, most are astonished by its accuracy. In cases where two or three people are being done at the same time, the reading has been either reversed or an alternate done. Results support the robust nature of the individuating information hypothesis.

Another feature of any person who basically has a positive self-concept, and perhaps all people, is the self-serving bias. The self-serving bias is a tendency to interpret information in line with our existing beliefs, and especially to believe positive things about ourselves. Thus, any information which fits in with our preconceived notions, or in this case, that of the person we are reading, will be believed, whether true or not. Any statement pertaining to the self that is reasonable and is positive will be accepted and believed.

Yet another feature of cognitive functioning is selective perception and selective recall. People tend to focus their perceptions upon those aspects of information that fit with their existing or present schema. For example, I was visiting with a gentlemen who had been a "confirmed" skeptic for 15 years. He awakened about 2:15 a.m. over the middle of the Pacific Ocean, en route to Hawaii, with the sudden realization that he was fulfilling the prophesy a reader had made some 15 or 20 years prior, that he would travel to a distant place, crossing water. The place would have different kinds of trees, like an umbrella, would be warm, and there would be dark-skinned people there -- selective recall, after 15 years. It is common for people to listen to a speech and each get entirely different things out of it. Given enough information, especially ambiguous information, and people will remember that which supports and maintains their existing beliefs. The classic "rumor" demonstration is based upon this feature of cognitive functioning.

The Vividness Effect should be remembered by example. It refers to the fact that a personal testimony carries more weight than statistical averages, although the latter are clearly a more accurate base for decisions. The continued existence of our art could be considered testimony to the power of a vivid experience or personal testimony, even given the long history of research and statistical summaries.

The Base Rate Fallacy refers to the tendency to ignore or under-use basic rates or averages and instead rely upon the immediate situation. Talking about a particular person who earns less than the average income for his or her occupation, they will still agree to "you are better off than most other people in your occupation."

In a similar vein, the Self-Serving Bias is one of the stronger, more clearly substantiated findings in psychology. On any dimension that is both subjective and socially desirable, most people see themselves as better than average. It has been found that:

° Most business people see themselves as more ethical than the average business person.

° Most people see themselves as less prejudiced than others in their community.

° Most drivers, even those in hospitals following a car wreck. see themselves as safer and more skilled than the average driver.

° Most Americans see themselves as more intelligent than the average.

° A majority of citizens living in smog-infused L. A. see themselves as healthier than their neighbors.

° In a study of over 800,000 high school students, it was found that 70% felt they were above average in leadership ability while only 2% felt they were below average; 60% felt they were above average in athletic ability while only 6% felt below average: and in ability to get along with others. 25% feel that they are in the highest 1% and 60% feel they are in the top 10%. Thus only 15% would feel they are below the top 10%.

° 94% of college professors feel they are better than the average professor (maybe that is why merit pay produces such feelings of unfairness).

° The majority of stock brokers and stock investors feel that their business intuition Is superior to most of their peers.

Substantial evidence for what we have known all along. Tell them they are better than average on any subjective scaling of any socially desirable trait.

It would also be possible to draw upon theories in psychology to generate additional features. For example, the theory of psychological reactance maintains that when a person is faced with the actual or threatened loss of a right or freedom. That individual will experience reactance, a drive to reestablish that right or freedom. Thus, people in general don't like to be told what to do! They may go the extra mile if asked, but being ordered creates resistance. Ya-hoo, "You don't like being ordered around. You will willingly cooperate if asked, but don't like being bossed around." or "You are the kind of person that if someone tells you that you can't do something, you really want to do it if nothing more than to prove them wrong."

Other psychological theories and facts abound. Cognitive Dissonance, postulated by Leon Festinger, provides a basis for many predictions about how and when we rationalize, and often makes predictions that might go against common sense. Predictions like 'the less we are paid to do something, the more likely we are to change our attitude and/or like the task', and conversely, 'the more we are paid to do something we initially enjoyed the less we like doing it, it then becomes work'. That is why Dale Carnegie hit it right when he said if you want someone to like you, ask them to do you a favor.

Any good textbook on child or developmental psychology, social psychology, or personality theory is a gold mine of information waiting your unique application.

Before leaving the topic of psychology, mention should be made of the self-fulfilling prophecies. When a person has an expectancy, he or she will look for data which confirms that expectancy. Thus, telling someone that they are going to come by some money, meet a person named_or whatever may create a schema or expectancy. Within reason, that expectancy will be confirmed, and the person will exert effort in an attempt to fit information into a conceptual framework to fulfill the expectancy or prophecy.

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