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Signs And Fortune-telling: How Does It Work From The Point Of View Of Psychology? - Society
Signs And Fortune-telling: How Does It Work From The Point Of View Of Psychology? - Society

Video: Signs And Fortune-telling: How Does It Work From The Point Of View Of Psychology? - Society

Video: Signs And Fortune-telling: How Does It Work From The Point Of View Of Psychology? - Society
Video: Как узнать себя 2023, March

Winter holidays are the time of rituals and signs: from burnt notes in glasses of champagne to Christmas divination. It would seem that there is no need for a modern person to believe in mysterious predictions, but every now and then one can hear stories about how the envisioned comes true - even among inveterate skeptics! How does this happen?

The atmosphere of divination and various rituals "to desire" usually in every possible way hints at touching the other world. Candles, lowered curtains, the obligatory onset of midnight or at least darkness refer to mystical rites, and the process of fortune-telling itself is often understood as an "appeal to spirits", "a conversation with dark forces" or even a direct dialogue with a "brownie", "water" and etc.

The traditions of such fortune-telling have been preserved in different cultures for centuries, despite the aggressive eradication by the "official" religions or the communist struggle against prejudices - is the secret of their steadfastness really connected with mysticism?

Looking for clues

Modern psychology has a completely scientific explanation for this phenomenon. The popularity of various kinds of fortune telling and their ability to "predict" the future is based on several errors of perception typical of our consciousness, which are called cognitive distortions. Let's consider them in more detail?

  1. The illusion of control - a person's exaggeration of his own ability to influence random events 1. It is this illusion that makes us look for the most "correct" ritual for fulfilling a wish or attracting good luck - whether it is the obligatory New Year's dishes "for money" and "happiness" or a refusal to share a dream with loved ones - "otherwise it will not come true"
  2. The Baader - Meinhof effect, or the illusion of frequency, is the subjective perception of recently recognized information that has been encountered again a short time later as being unusually often repeated 2. So, a person who has been guessed a "black streak" in life will be sure that misfortunes lie in wait for him at every step - after all, he has already forgotten the keys at home twice in a month and once got caught in the rain!
  3. The marksman's mistake is an unconscious desire to "fit" real data to the "predicted" results 3. This is manifested, for example, in fortune-telling "by the book", when a quote randomly chosen by a fortuneteller correlates with one of the many events in his life and therefore is perceived as a "supernatural coincidence."
  4. The Rosenthal effect is the restructuring of a person's actions and reactions under the influence of the received prophecy in such a way that it actually comes true 4. For example, a girl whose “betrothed” is predicted to be called “Alexander” may become sympathetic to a new acquaintance with this name, considering him in advance as a likely candidate for groom.
  5. Selective perception - people's tendency to ignore facts that do not meet their expectations 5. Because of this illusion, we can sincerely believe that, for example, the predicted wealth came to us in the form of a quarterly bonus, ignoring the fact that we already receive it four times a year without any mysticism.

Does this mean that fortune-telling and rituals associated with making wishes are a waste of time? Not at all! The fact that their action is explained not by supernatural influence, but by the peculiarities of the work of consciousness, allows us to look at traditional practices as an interesting tool for reflection and goal setting.

Rethinking traditions

Most of the "predictive" practices are built on the principle of projective or associative tests. This means that the result of fortune-telling is not what will happen to you, but what you really want. When we peer into the outlines of a shadow from burnt paper or a figure made of molten wax, our consciousness endows an indefinite picture with the features of an object that, for one reason or another, is relevant and important to us.

Hurriedly writing down the desire on a piece of paper to the chimes, we choose from all possible goals for the next year the highest priority - while acting not from rational considerations, but under the influence of a latent emotional assessment

Analyzing the results of fortune-telling, it is useful to ask yourself two questions: why was it important for me and how can I help myself in the implementation of things that are important to me? It may happen that at this stage you find that your real desires are in fact at odds with the "correct" goals from the point of view of society.

Another option is also possible: you will see that you are on the right track, you only need to determine the details of the realization of your dream. In any case, this is a good reason for evaluating your resources, making plans and gaining self-confidence.


  1. Vadillo MA, Matute H., Blanco F. Fighting the illusion of control: How to make use of cue competition and alternative explanations // Universitas Psychologica. - 2013. - V. 12. - No. 1. - P. 261-270. - URL: (date accessed: 11/6/2019).
  2. The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon: Didn't I Just Hear About That? // Don't Quit Your Day Job … - 2019-25-06. - URL: (date accessed: 11/6/2019).
  3. Hammoor C., Walker E. The Texas Sharpshooter Fallacy // Body, Space & Technology. - 2017. - V. 16. - URL: (date of access: 6.11.2019).
  4. Rosenthal R. The Pygmalion effect and its mediating mechanisms // Improving academic achievement. - Academic Press, 2002. - P. 25-36. - URL: (date accessed: 11/6/2019).
  5. Meyer TP News reporter bias: A case study in selective perception // Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media. - 1972. - V. 16. - No. 2. - P. 195-203. - URL: (date accessed: 11/6/2019).

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