The Stat Fact

Stat Facts are statements based on statistics and demographic data. There is a wealth of such information available, from libraries, specialist publications, commercial databases and the internet. Some of the more headline-friendly data even makes it to the national press and becomes popular knowledge (or popular misconception).

This kind of information can play its part in the cold reading process. For example, imagine that the psychic is giving readings in a region where, statistically, most of the women who have parttime jobs work either in the health services or the textile industry. If the psychic has reason to think her client is in part-time work, then she knows which two areas are most likely to be worth exploring. As with many aspects of cold reading, there are good and bad ways of using this information.

Here is an example of the bad way:

"There is an indication that your career is related to health. Or possibly textiles."

This is as transparent as it is trite and useless. In contrast, imagine the psychic is giving an astrological reading, and weaves her spell like this:

"...turning to the area of work and of career, the influence of Aries suggests that you have a great capacity for working with

Eeople and helping them. In fact the conjunctions of your fifth ouse suggest you could be very successful if you were working with people who needed care or counselling, in one form or another. The stars suggest that this could be right for you... "

At this point, the psychic pauses to see if the client seems to be agreeing. If not, the psychic changes tack:

"...but that's more to do with your potential, rather than your actual current situation. The relatively rare influence of Saturn at the moment, coupled with your Capricorn nature, suggests you may have found your energy channelled into working with your hands, maybe in a form of manufacturing although, if my interpretation is correct, yours is work which other people will transform. Does this make sense to you?"

In this way, the psychic can hit on two likely careers - health and textiles- in a way which at least sounds like the information is coming from the stars rather than a web page of local census statistics.

Obviously, the success of this element depends on how reliable the information is, and how intelligently it is applied. Experienced cold readers make it their business to gather information which is likely to prove useful. Mediums and spiritualists, for example, have everything to gain from learning the statistically commonest causes of death, and to flavour their Stat Statements accordingly.

There is certainly no shortage of demographic data available. There are tables and reports pertaining to educational attainment, careers, salary levels, marrying age, prevailing health problems and myriad other subjects.

To rely on very well-known statistics is to invite unimpressed and rather cynical responses. But less well-known statistics can be extremely useful, as can attention to fine distinctions. For example, what is the most popular sport or pastime in Britain? Most British people would say football, which is true in terms of the numbers who have an interest as spectators. But in terms of those who actively take part, the top sport by a long margin is angling or fishing. Similarly, few of my fellow Brits would guess that doing jig-saw puzzles is something like the fifth most popular recreational pursuit in the country.

5. The Trivia Stat

This element consists of a statement about trivial domestic and personal details. Whereas the Stat Fact is derived from official statistics, Trivia Stats are based on widely-applicable facts gleaned from experience rather than bureaucratic compilations. Experienced cold readers develop their own favourite Trivia Stats over time. Here are a few I have collected over the years. Some of them strike me as more likely to be hits than others. See what you think!

Regarding what you would find in most people's homes:

- a box of old photographs somewhere, not neatly sorted into albums

- some old medicine or medical supplies years out of date

- at least one toy, or some books, which are mementoes from childhood

- some item of jewellery, or maybe war medals, from a deceased family member

- a pack of cards, even if they say they never play cards, and very often one or more cards missing

- some electronic gizmo or gadget which no longer works, will never be repaired, but has not been thrown out

- a notepad or message board which once had a matching pen but the pen is now missing

- a note, attached to the fridge or near the phone, which is significantly out of date

- a few books concerning an interest or hobby which is no longer pursued

- a calendar which is nothing to do with the current year

- consecutive issues of a magazine once subscribed to, but no longer

- a drawer which does not slide as easily as it should, or a cabinet on which the doors do not work properly

- some item on open display which was bought on holiday

- a key which is now redundant, or the exact purpose of which has been forgotten

- a broken watch or clock

Regarding men and women:

- most men tried learning a musical instrument as a child, but then gave up

- most men wore a moustache or beard at some point, even if they have been clean-shaven for years

- most men have at least one old suit hanging in their wardrobe which they can no longer fit into

- most women own, or have owned, an item of clothing which they bought and then never wore

- most women have many more pairs of shoes than they actually need in practical terms

- most women keep photos of their loved ones in their purse or otherwise near them, even if they do not seem the sentimental type

- most women wear their hair long as a child, then adopt a shorter haircut when they get older

- most women have at least one ear-ring the partner of which has been lost

- most people have, or have had, a scar on the left knee

- most people have a number '2' in their house number, or know someone who does

- most people will have been involved in some sort of childhood accident which involved water

- most people with fair skin have experienced bad sunburn at least once

It will be obvious that worthwhile Trivia Stats vary according to culture, region and content. The psychic who wants to use this element has to acquire examples appropriate for her region and clientele. The same is true for many other cold reading elements.

Theme and variations

Trivia Stat elements can be woven into almost any kind of psychic reading. With just a little presentational embellishment, they can be made to sound quite impressive. For example, it is no good simply announcing:

"You have a box of old photographs at home."

This lacks presentational flair, even if it happens to be correct. So the psychic adds a few grace notes, in keeping with the particular form of reading in offer. The tarot version might go something like this:

"Ah... the 3 of Pentacles and, in the same line, The World. A very interesting combination of cards, actually. In general, The World pertains to your own personal domain or presence, like your own home or your own room. This combination suggests the sort of person who makes clear distinctions between things that are important, and things that aren't. You're quite analytical in that respect. It's as if you're inclined to attach far more importance to some possessions than others. You know, you might be the sort who has some photographs, the important ones, neatly compiled into albums, and others which you just sling into an old box, any old how, and never look at."

On the other hand, here is an example of how the palmistry version might go:

"This line, here at the base of the ring finger, indicates your materialistic nature. It's clearly bisected by the heart line, indicating a person who makes clear distinctions - you treasure some possessions like gold dust, while you're happy to discard or ignore others as if they don't matter. You know the sort of thing I mean - like those people who have loads of family photos, and some are neatly pasted into albums kept in the living room - the important ones - while others get slung in a box, any old how, in a cupboard in the bedroom."

Just to labour the point, here is how the spiritualist might use exactly the same element:

"And I have your Uncle here now. He's very well, he tells me, and loves you very much. Oh, mind you, but he's got quite a sense of humour, and he's complaining now. What s that ? Ah, I understand, he's saying something about photos. Old photographs. He says you have some old photos of him and you don't have them on display anywhere! They're all just in a box in a cupboard, and you never look at them."

Personally, I have used the Trivia Stat very little. Other cold readers seem to set great store by their collection of such statements. As with so many other aspects of cold reading, it is purely a matter of personal style, preference and experience.

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