How I Learned to Stop Debunking and Love My Inner Psychic Ability
April 2, 2013 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Amaze your friends! Befuddle your enemies! Impress the miserly old woman you've been crushing on! Ray Hyman's 1977 Cold Reading: How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them posted by IvoShandor (21 comments total) 93 users marked this as a favorite
anyone have a tiny url or some such sort of greasemonkey stealth?
my employer has apparently been astute enough to block something as specific as Ray's last name...
posted by herbplarfegan at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Just follow the advice that I give you, and, even if you are the most incompetent social bungler

posted by Shepherd at 12:09 PM on April 2, 2013 [10 favorites]

posted by mrzer0 at 12:13 PM on April 2, 2013

How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them

Show them your NSA badge?
posted by Iosephus at 12:36 PM on April 2, 2013 [2 favorites]

You like Castlevania, don't you?
posted by boo_radley at 12:49 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

How to Convince Strangers That You Know All About Them

Your Google keycard, no?
posted by infini at 1:08 PM on April 2, 2013

For people who want to explore this a bit more, I heartily recommend this book, if you can find it for a sensible price. It's mostly written with an eye to explaining how psychics and faith healers work, but underlies its points with good practical advice teaching readers to use the techniques themselves, as well as to spot when people are applying them to you.

I dabbled in cold reading and stage hypnosis a bit during my undergrad days. Despite me having had very little practice and not being the most smooth-talking individual, a few people were left a bit weirded out by how accurate I was and at least one girl was left believing that I had some sort of "Gift" despite my insistence that it was just a cheap trick. Later, someone I was chatting to online about cold reading became convinced that I had somehow met his wife (who was passing through the country I was in, and worked in a vaguely related field to mine) and persuaded her to help me fool him.

This isn't because I had any talent, it's because some basic techniques and a very small amount of luck can create a startlingly convincing effect. And because we all like to think of ourselves as rational, skeptical, and unusual, and therefore immune to the tricks and perceptual errors that might catch other people, (and, equally, hate to have our emotionally charged experiences invalidated), it's basically impossible to persuade someone that they've been taken in by such a simple suite of tricks.

Silly games and psychics aside though, it's amazing how much you start to see the basic patterns out in the real world. There's lots of it in marketing when ads, salespeople, and politicians are trying to quickly establish rapport, or steer you towards a decision. But I also think that a lot of pop psychology articles ("You might be an introvert if...") and self-help guides read like a long string of Barnum statements, that feel very personal but are true for basically everyone.
posted by metaBugs at 1:13 PM on April 2, 2013 [20 favorites]

Imagine the power you give away in your Facebook page..
posted by shnarg at 1:31 PM on April 2, 2013 [4 favorites]

Another classic text is Corinada's 13 Steps to Mentalism, which has a wikipeida page! I see links to download pdf's but downloader beware. But only part of one chapter discusses cold readings.
posted by sammyo at 2:34 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

There's someone in your life with a name that starts with the letter "T". Tim, maybe, or Tom, or Tina, or Tanya, or Tyrion. You have a sister or a brother or maybe you are an only child. Sometimes you get an ich in the middle of your back and you just... can't... reach it. Right between the shoulderblades. So you pull a fork out of the silverware drawer, and then you snake it down inside your tunic, and remove a layer or two of dead skin. Then you slip the fork back in the drawer without washing it. There's someone else in your life with blond hair. It might be a woman. Or a man. Possibly a child or a small dragon. A friend, or possibly a nemesis. Or someone passing by in a chapter that never mentions you. You are fictional, but you don't know it yet. But then again, who isn't? Your Debit Card PIN is ****.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 2:38 PM on April 2, 2013 [7 favorites]

I was accosted at a party once by someone practising his cold reading. He was on the subject of my ideal career; not wanting to play along, I said "Well, I totally think you should go into the business of going on stage and persuading gullible people that you're talking to their dead relatives".

He said that was in fact what he did for a living. Then he ran off at high speed.
posted by emilyw at 3:19 PM on April 2, 2013 [5 favorites]

Ha! Jokes on you, IRFH! My PIN has 6 digits!
posted by Navelgazer at 5:03 PM on April 2, 2013

I'm sensing that your PIN has the number 4 in it, though. Or maybe 2 2s. Or a multiple of 4 and 2 - maybe an 8. Maybe some combination of the above. Am I right? I'm right, aren't I?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 5:07 PM on April 2, 2013 [3 favorites]

I have an older male presence on your left who keeps insisting that I ask you about the dream you just had, the one with a “U” animal...a sea urchin? No, a unicorn? I’m seeing a unicorn made out of origami...and...a swarm of baby spiders? Just know that this is his way of coming through to validate the feelings you’ve been having about being human.
posted by mubba at 7:28 PM on April 2, 2013 [6 favorites]

I have been completely fascinated with the techniques of cold readings for sometime now, but have never endeavoured to find out more about it. Until now.

Thank you for reminding me that this is an interest of mine.
posted by Lizard at 8:34 PM on April 2, 2013

I have the book metaBugs recommends and it's brilliant. If I didn't feel so guilty about ripping off the gullible, I'd be pulling a John Edwards so fast it'd be funny.
posted by ninazer0 at 1:36 AM on April 3, 2013

Useful research material (ForANovelHonestlyFilter: one of the writing projects I want to pick up again soon has a cold-reading character). Thanks!
posted by daisyk at 4:08 AM on April 3, 2013

See also: the Forer effect
You have a great need for other people to like and admire you. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself. You have a great deal of unused capacity 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 problems for you. Disciplined and self-controlled 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 as an independent thinker and do not accept others' statements 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, reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic. Security is one of your major goals in life.
posted by Acey at 4:39 AM on April 3, 2013 [2 favorites]

Heh. It was debunked when my copywriter kid sister got the horoscope section of the daily paper through her employer, an ad agency for the publisher.
posted by infini at 5:04 AM on April 3, 2013

You can use this power to set up a nice consulting career for yourself as an expert in Meyers-Briggs testing.

You're an E most of the time, but an I sometimes when you're tired. You like being spontaneous, but sometimes you like to plan things out. Sensing... or Feeling. Hmmmm.
posted by surplus at 5:38 AM on April 3, 2013

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