Can anyone learn cold reading

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This is a common question, and the answer is the same for cold reading as for anything else. Almost anyone can try their hand at it, but there will always be some who have more natural aptitude than others. Good cold reading tends to require the gift of the gab, modest acting ability, lack of nerves, and a touch of 'stage presence'. If a person has these qualities, he or she can probably learn to be a good cold-reader. Charm and charisma obviously help, but I seem to have done okay despite a conspicuous lack of both.

It is important to point out that different practitioners learn cold reading in different ways. It is a little bit like playing the piano: some learn from books, some are taught, some more or less teach themselves as they go along. Some have a very analytical approach, and teach themselves by studying and practising for many years (which is what I did). Others more or less develop the knack without trying.

It is perfectly possible for someone to become a skilled cold reader without realising it. Anyone who begins to give readings to friends for fun will get at least a few very favourable responses. The longer they carry on, the more they will develop the knack of saying things which people find meaningful. Before long, they will be quite convinced of their own innate psychic gifts, based on the very favourable reactions they get. The best account of this process is probably Susan Blackmore's book 'The Adventures of a Parapsychologist', in which she relates how she herself began to believe she must possess a psychic gift. In time, she was able to see she was in fact cold reading without even trying.

In consequence, neither I nor anyone else can point to a psychic and say they are intentionally deceiving their clients. To do that, I would have to be a mind-reader! What I can say is that if there is no such thing as psychic ability (which happens to be my opinion), then anyone who claims to be psychic is either deceiving themselves or deceiving others.

Progress Review

This is the end of Section Five. We have seen what cold reading is, how it works, and how it can be prevented from working.

If you have followed all the material in these five sections, you can be confident that you know as much about cold reading as almost anyone else - including those who practise it!

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