Max Thompson

 They say some of the kindest and loyal adults have four specific features. They are strong, dependable, sensual and creative. Do you think that those are a good description of you? Turn to someone around you and ask them if that describes them well. Personally, I think it fits me great.

Those adjectives weren’t describing “some of the kindest adults.” I made that term up. These are actually a horoscope reading from horoscope.com.

Now, I want you to ask yourself an even easier question: Were you born between April 20 and May 20? If so, congratulations, you just correctly identified with your horoscope personality traits.

If you weren’t born on those dates, it is very likely that you still thought to yourself that those four traits were a good description of you, regardless of whether or not you were willing to admit it.

How is it possible that a personality reading for less than 10% of the population does such a good job of describing all of us? The power is in the psychology.

This is a common phenomenon known as the Barnum Effect. This effect occurs when someone is told very generic information, but it is portrayed as though it is tailored to them. This is exactly how horoscopes work.

Think of a horoscope as a customized phone case with your name on it. If someone walks up to you, hands you a phone case and says, “Hey, you probably need a phone case,” you may think that is true. However, you will also likely think, “Hey, everyone needs a phone case. Almost all of us have phones.”

Now imagine if someone walked up to you, handed you a phone case and said, “Hey, you probably need a phone case,” but the case had your name on it. First, that would be a really weird interaction, but it would also make you feel like it was tailored to you.

Horoscopes follow this same logic. If we breakdown the four traits listed at the start, they are incredibly broad.

Everyone thinks of themselves as dependable and strong people because those are desirable traits that are hard to measure.

But if you don’t think of yourself and strong and dependable, you may agree that you are sensual and creative because these are two equally broad terms that are in many ways opposed to the previous two.

Either way, you are prone to accept these generic terms as accurate descriptions of you because they are “yours.” You were born on a specific day with some sort of specific star pattern, so these generic descriptions are meant for you.

This is the same effect that fortune cookies rely on as well. I promise, you will never read a fortune that claims, “You should sleep in next Tuesday.” However, you will eventually come across one that goes along the lines of, “You have a great opportunity ahead. Take advantage.”

Instantly, the reader’s mind will start searching for chances in their head, from an upcoming test to the discount they saw on a vacation. It doesn’t matter if the fortune is perfect, our brains will make it fit us.

As a whole, horoscopes and fortune cookies are a ton of fun. Everyone loves to crack open a random cookie, or their favorite horoscope app, and get a somewhat “accurate” prediction of who they are. Nevertheless, it is essential to understand that when it comes to the “accuracy,” horoscopes are nothing but broad generalizations.

Max Thompson is a freshman majoring in business management and journalism and electronic media. He can be reached at sthomp92@vols.utk.edu. Follow @The_Out_Route on Twitter for high-quality NFL analysis!

Columns and letters of The Daily Beacon are the views of the individual and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Beacon or the Beacon's editorial staff.

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