Monday, December 18, 2006

You tend to be critical of yourself...

In 1948, psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave his students a personality test and without reading their responses returned them a canned personality assessment in the form of the following paragraph:

"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."

Forer then asked them to rate the accuracy of the assessment from 0 to 5 (excellent). The average rating was 4.2. The assessment was actually taken from a newspaper's daily horoscope. The tendency of people to rate such assessments as highly accurate on a personal level even though the claims could apply to just about anyone is known as the Forer Effect (aka the Barnum Effect).


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