“Horror-scopes” (Astrology)

My horoscope for the day read, “You don’t have to create everything alone. Life isn’t an individual sport. To live life fully, you must participate. Often this involves interacting with other people. This is an exercise in confidence. Do you want to be with us? Regardless of your answer, outside events will lead you in a direction that you cannot predict.”

Let’s see how this played out. I was tasked to create a social media usage presentation for another office on the post where I work. It was made clear the office supervisor would preside over the meeting’s opening, and that another worker would send me some material for inclusion. So, check on the first prediction about not having to create everything alone and life not being an individual sport.

I participate in the Unitarian Church as the unofficial media relations person and am on one of the welcome teams. I am active in the PTA, spearheaded the creation of the school’s Facebook page, served as school carnival chair, and am co-president for next year. I help out with the community theater group when I can. And, indeed, these activities help me live a fuller life, so check again. And, man, every one of those interactions involves other people. Amazing. And it scores again with the point that I can’t predict things, since I’m not an astrologer.

It’s rather difficult to put astrology to a scientific test, but I did the best I could by creating a control sample. I picked the first line of horoscopes from six signs not my own, to see how well they would have predicted my future.

We’ll go through each of these Pick Six and see if they hit. Lines from the horoscopes are in italics.

Your projects have taken some time to get set up. I had been kicking the idea of this blog around for three months before launching it.

When we have found our path, we naturally want to walk down it. When I left work that day, one foot was continually put in front of the other. In a more figurative sense, I have decided to live the rest of my life in Moline, after having lived in 21 other places before.

You feel compelled to pick up the pieces of the past and save them. Just the day prior, I had cleaned the house, and this included collecting plastic dinosaurs I played with as a child and putting them away.

Your opinion will carry weight later on. The next week, my guest column ran in the Moline newspaper.

The day will be fairly quiet for you. My boss and his boss were both gone that day.

It would be much more reasonable for you to think first about the basic material needs of you and your family. I wasn’t sure if I was going to the grocery store today or later in the week, but now I know.

You can expect to have to settle a number of minor technical problems involving communications or transmissions. That’s what I do every day! This thing is reading my mind.

So it made for a stunningly accurate horoscope. Except that it wasn’t mine.

The reason horoscopes can seem accurate is because they use ideas and terms so general that they will apply to almost anyone. They even use contradictory ideas, such as “You can be indecisive, but aren’t afraid to take a stand.” And it doesn’t hurt to throw in what people like to hear, such as “You have a great deal of untapped potential,” or, “You are someone who can be trusted.”

This was most famously demonstrated in a 1948 psychological study by Dr. Bertram Forer. Participants were given a reading, then asked to rate it for accuracy on a scale of 0 to 5. The average score was 4.4.

It turned out that everyone had been given the same reading. Pieces of different horoscopes and been plucked and thrown into an astrological gumbo. The ideas were elastic and vague enough that they connected with whoever read them, regardless of age, race, class, or gender. This is known as the Forer Effect, where persons put stock in broad ideas because they seem personal.

A similar phenomenon is subjective validation, where an idea is deemed correct if it has personal meaning to the listener. Certainly, the idea may very well be correct. But it might also be wrong, and the tendency when reading horoscopes is to find meaning in it and square it with one’s existence.

Everyone is searching for meaning and significance in life, and when something like a horoscope seems to be filling the need, the tendency is to embrace it. That can lead to many self-fulfilling prophecies, as the person starts acting out the prediction. It is harmless fun for some, put potentially dangerous and psychologically destructive for others.

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