The reader classifies the client prior to or very early in the reading, by scanning the environment for sources of intelligence about her. Davidson has stated that initial impressions of the client, as she enters the room, exchanges greetings, and seats herself, are particularly important. This is because the client is off her guard at this point, unaware that the 'reading' has begun, and so is prone to leak more information about herself than she would during the actual reading. Indeed, if Davidson found himself unable to allocate a client to a relatively narrow pigeon hole category by the time she sat down, it was unlikely that the reading would be a success.
The main distinctions are made according to the sex and age of the client, and at one extreme may simply use a narrowed version of the cradle-to-grave reading, or other stock spiel, determined by information given up by the sitter. For example, Couttie (1988) describes how:
Up to the age of twenty or twenty-five the main concerns are sex and relationships of different sorts. From then to the mid-thirties the concerns are mainly about jobs, money and the home. For the next ten years there is a shift towards worries about children's futures, parental health, rethinking careers and so on. From about forty-five onwards there are worries about personal health, one's own marriage, a desperation about the direction of one's life, concern about grandchildren and so forth. (p. 137).
Webster (1990) similarly describes different scenarios depending on the age of the client. For younger sitters, he portrays a very positive, optimistic future (but still within the realms of possibility). From the age of 30-35, however, clients "start to realise that the dreams they had will never eventuate". So for an older person he offers the more realistic "Money hasn't always been easy. You've had to work pretty hard to get where you have." and he predicts more moderate achievements gained through effort rather than good fortune. For much older sitters, the real concern is with loneliness as much as it is with poverty, so it is always worthwhile to describe how they won't be alone in their old age (see, e.g., Martin, 1990, p. 36).
Further information can be gleaned from the client's clothing, physical features, carriage and manner of speech which can point more specifically to their past history and future aspirations. Hyman (1977) provides an illustration of the process in action, recounting a story told by the magician John Mulholland which occurred in the 1930s (and which may now appear to be somewhat dated):
A young lady in her late twenties or early thirties visited a character reader. She was wearing expensive jewelry, a wedding band, and a black dress of cheap material. The observant reader noted that she was wearing shoes that were currently being advertised for people with foot trouble... By means of just these observations the reader proceeded to amaze his client with his insights. He assumed that this client came to see him as did most of his female customers, because of a love or financial problem. The black dress and the wedding band led him to reason that her husband had died recently. The expensive jewelry suggested she had been financially comfortable during marriage, but the cheap dress indicated that her husband's death had left her penniless. The therapeutic shoes signified that she was working to support herself since her husband's death. The reader's shrewdness led him to the following conclusion - which turned out to be correct: The lady had met a man who had proposed to her. She wanted to marry the man to end her economic hardship. But she felt guilty about marrying so soon after her husband's death. The reader told her what she had come to hear -that it was all right to marry without further delay. (p. 408)
In the exploratory study, Davidson noticed that one of his clients heaved a sigh as she sat down. He correctly surmised that she spent much of her working time on her feet. She was very particular about her appearance, so he believed that she was used to being in the public eye. On the assumption that she worked in a shop or public house, he fed her a line about her being very open and friendly and would be well suited to working in a profession where she would be in contact with the public - if she didn't already. It transpired that she did indeed work in the service industry
If the reading is held in the client's home, then themes found in collections of ornaments, pictures, or books will also indicate some hobbies, interests, and aspirations. These will help the reader to assign the client to a narrower and presumably more accurate category. When taken to an extreme, the classification can be quite specific, for example by exploiting the discovery of hobby stickers on cars which indicate membership of particular clubs or societies, or necklaces bearing initials (Hester and Hudson, 1977). The reader should not necessarily ignore very obvious sources of intelligence. As Hobrin (1990) notes, "You may be surprised to learn the number of people who forget that they are wearing their birth sign or name around their neck. They say familiarity breeds contempt; I'd say that it breeds forgetfulness ... never overlook the obvious" (p. 12).
At times, this process can be barely distinguishable from "hot reading", which involves gathering intelligence about the client in advance of the reading (and which will be described in more detail later in this chapter). However, hot reading can be distinguished from the other stratagems discussed here on the grounds that it is possible for a "shut-eye" (a reader who believes that they have psi) to unwittingly be exploiting processes such as pigeon holing, whereas it is not possible for them to be making use of hot reading, where the information gathering is much more contrived and vigorous (see, e.g., Fuller, 1975, 1980). The former may also be considered more 'fair' to the client, since it only makes use of sources of information which are equally available to them during the reading (and which thus can allow them to better evaluate the paranormality of the communication).
Strictly speaking, however, hot reading should not be included under the banner of cold reading, as on occasion it has been (e.g. Hyman, 1977; Randi, 1981), since it does not entail the reader coming into the reading situation "cold" (i.e. knowing nothing about the client in advance). However, when used, the information gained in this way is not baldly given up but is interwoven with information derived from the other strategies to give a broader reading, and so arguably should be included in any model dealing with the interaction of different cold reading strategies.
As well as providing an overarching category within which to set the client, simple observation can also provide the reader with titbits which can appear to be remarkably insightful. Selected examples (drawn from Martin, 1990) are given in figure 4 to give a flavour of the kind of information which can be gleaned.
• Ridges in a belt may indicate fluctuations in weight.
• A worn left heel (reversed in Britain) indicates a lot of time driving, perhaps with work.
• Tall women tend to dislike their feet (as too big) especially when they were younger.
• A mole or birthmark on the neck or shoulder is usually accompanied by one on the back, usually lower back.
• Men (in particular) who wear their watch on the right wrist tend to be left-handed. This can be alluded to by predicting: "When you were a child, adults around you tried to make you change your ways, but you chose a path not as populated as most. All your life, I see you marching to the beat of a different drummer".
• Women who sigh a lot and look somewhat depressed, tend to strongly agree with a description in terms of a 'tough life, hard uphill struggle' no matter what their financial or social position._
Figure 4: Simple observations providing insight into the client's circumstances
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