Horoscopes, Personality Tests, Facebook Quizzes...
If you're interested in astrology, then let me begin by telling you that I was born when the sun was in the Capricorn House of the Zodiac.
By the way, have a look at the following description:
You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the 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 also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others' statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.
The description above is not unique to me, or you, but you do believe it applies well on you, right? Well, if you're a Capricorn... or not!
In 1948, the psychologist Bertram Forer conducted a Personality Test amongst his students, after which he gave them each a unique personality analysis supposedly based on the test results and asked them to rate it on a scale of 0 to 5 on how well it applied to themselves. On average, the rating was 4.26, after which it was revealed that each student had received the same analysis, the passage quoted above.
The interesting part is that Forer had assembled this text from horoscopes.
This is called the Personal Validation Fallacy, according to which, we very easily believe personality descriptions supposedly tailored specifically for us, and deem them accurate, while they are actually vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. It can be used to explain the widespread acceptance of astrology, fortune telling, and personality tests.
Another interesting result is that the result of such Personality Quizzes and Horoscopes are held in higher esteem by the subject if:
- The subject believes that the analysis is uniquely generated for them
- The subject believes in the authority of the evaluator
- The analysis lists mainly positive traits
Facebook Quizzes, anyone?