Northampton Electronic Collection of Theses and Research

An overview of cold reading strategies

Roe, C. A. and Roxburgh, E. C. (2013) An overview of cold reading strategies. In: Moreman, C. (ed.) The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World: Volume 2, Evidence and Beliefs. California: Praeger. pp. 177-203.

Item Type: Book Section
Abstract: The standard mainstream explanation for impressive mediumistic communications is in terms of cold reading (e.g. Hyman, 2003; Lyons & Truzzi, 1991; Marks & Kamman, 1980; Nickell, 2001, 2010; Randi, 1981; Underdown, 2003). Ray Hyman’s classic account of the technique, describes it as “a procedure by which a ‘reader’ is able to persuade a client whom he has never met before that he knows all about the client’s personality and problems” (Hyman, 1977, p. 20). Unfortunately, this does not give us much insight into the actual process of cold reading, which in practice can vary in form from case to case, from a simple reliance on using statements which are true of most people (e.g. Dutton, 1988; Hyman, 1981) through to a broader definition which includes pre-session information gathering about a client (e.g. Couttie, 1988; Fuller, 1975, 1980; Keene, 1976). There are also clear indications that the cold reading ‘process’ actually consists of a number of discrete and independent strategies (including inter alia fishing, Barnum reading, and hot reading), as one of us has outlined (Roe, 1991) but this does not seem to be generally appreciated (e.g. Schwartz, 1978; see Rowland, 2001, for a more sophisticated treatment). In this chapter we will review some of the sceptical accounts that have invoked explanations in terms of cold reading before giving a detailed account of the various techniques involved, drawing in particular on an extensive but generally unknown pseudopsychic literature (e.g. Cain, 1991; Earle, 1990; Hobrin, 1990; Jones, 1989). This will focus on identifying the necessary conditions for the techniques to be practised and describing the nature of the information that can be produced by such methods. We will also briefly consider the empirical evidence that bears on the assumptions underlying pseudopsychic techniques — such as that clients are susceptible to the Barnum effect (cf. Roe, 19965), are likely to selectively forget inaccurate information and distort recalled information such that it is more personally relevant (cf. Roe, 1994), and that clients remain oblivious to the fishing and feedback stages that are characteristic of cold reading.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology > BF1228 Spiritualism
Creators: Roe, Chris A and Roxburgh, Elizabeth C
Editors: Moreman, Christopher
Publisher: Praeger
Northamptonshire and East Midlands: Social Issues
Faculties, Divisions and Institutes: University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > School of Social Sciences (to 2016)
University Faculties, Divisions and Research Centres - OLD > Faculty of Health & Society > Psychology
Faculties > Faculty of Health & Society > Psychology
Date: 27 August 2013
Date Type: Publication
Page Range: pp. 177-203
Title of Book: The Spiritualist Movement: Speaking with the Dead in America and Around the World: Volume 2, Evidence and Beliefs
Volume: 2
Place of Publication: California
Number of Pages: 796
Language: English
ISBN: 9780313399473
Status: Published / Disseminated
Refereed: Yes
References: Argyle, M. (1988). Bodily communication. (2nd edition). London: Methuen Bartlett, F.C. (1932). Remembering: A study in experimental and social psychology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Blackmore, S. (1997). Probability misjudgement and belief in the paranormal: A newspaper survey. British Journal of Psychology, 88, 683-689. Bransford, J.D. & Johnson, M.K. (1972). Contextual prerequisites for understanding some investigations of comprehension and recall. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behaviour, 11, 717-726. Brunner, L.J. (1979). Smiles can be back channels. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 728-734. Bull, P. (1987). Posture and gesture. Oxford: pergamon. Couttie, (1988). Forbidden Knowledge: The Paranormal Paradox. Cambridge: Lutterworth Press. Dean, G.A., Kelly, I.W., Saklofske, D.H. & Furnham, A. (1992). Graphology and human judgement. In B. Beyerstein & D, Beyerstein (Eds.) The write stuff. (pp. 349-395). Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. Delaney, J.G. & Woodyard, H.D. (1974). Effects of reading an astrological description on responding to a personality inventory. Psychological Reports, 24, 1214. Dickson, D.H. & Kelly, I.E. (1985). The “Barnum Effect” in personality assessment: a review of the literature. Psychological Reports, 57, 367-382. Duncan, S. & Fiske, D.W. (1977). Face-to-face interaction: Research methods and theory. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Dutton, D.L. (1988) The Cold Reading Technique. Experientia, 44 (4), 326-331. Forer, B.R. (1949). The fallacy of personal validation: A classroom demonstration of gullibility. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 44, 118-123. Fuller, U. (1975). Confessions of a psychic: The secret notebooks of Uriah Fuller. Teaneck, NJ: Karl Fulves. Fuller, U. (1980). Further confessions of a psychic: The secret notebooks of Uriah Fuller. Teaneck, NJ: Karl Fulves. Furnham, A. & Schofield, S. (1987). Accepting personality test feedback: A review of the Barnum Effect. Current Psychological Research & Reviews, 6, 162-178. Greasley, P. (2000). Management of positive and negative responses in a spiritualist medium consultation. Skeptical Inquirer, 24(5), 45-49. Hyman, R. (1977). Cold Reading: How to convince strangers that you know all about them. The Skeptical Enquirer, 1, 18-37. Also reprinted in R. Hyman (1989) op cit. Hyman, R. (1981). The psychic reading. In T.A. Sebeok & R. Rosenthal (Eds.) The Clever Hans Phenomenon. (pp. 169-181). New York: New York Academy of Sciences. Hyman, R. (2003). How Not to Test Mediums: Critiquing the Afterlife Experiments. Skeptical Inquirer, 27(1), Keene, M.L. (with A. Spraggett) (1976). The psychic mafia. New York: Dell Publishing Co. Layne, C. & Ally, G. (1980). How and why people accept personality feedback. Journal of Personality assessment, 44, 541-546. Lester, D. (1982). Astrologers and psychics as therapists. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 36, 56-66. Lyons, A. & Truzzi, M. (1991). The blue sense: Psychic detectives and crime. New York: Mysterious Press. Marks, D. & Kamman, R. (1980). The psychology of the psychic. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books. Meehl, P.E. (1956). Wanted — a good cookbook. American Psychologist, 11, 262-272. Naftulin, D.H., Ware, J.E. & Donnelly, F.A. (1973). The Doctor Fox lecture: A paradigm of educational seduction. Journal of Medical Education, 48, 630-635. Nickell, J. (2001). John Edward: Hustling the bereaved. Skeptical Inquirer, 25(6), 19-22. Nickell, J. (2010). John Edward: Spirit Huckster. Skeptical Inquirer, 34(2), 19-22. Pfungst, O. (1911). Clever Hans: A contribution to experimental, animal and human psychology. New York: Holt. Pichert, J.W. & Anderson, R.C. (1977). Taking different perspectives on a story. Journal of Educational Psychology, 69, 309-315. Randi, J. (1981). Cold Reading Revisited. In K. Frazier (Ed.) Paranormal Borderlands of Science. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus. Richards, D.G. (1990). Exploring the dyadic counseling interaction. Proceedings of presented papers: The Parapsychological Association 33rd Annual Convention, 273-288. Roe, C.A. (1994). Subjects' Evaluations of a Tarot Reading. Proceedings of presented papers: The Parapsychological Association 37th Annual Convention, 323-334. Roe, C. A. (1995). Pseudopsychics & the Barnum Effect. European Journal of Parapsychology, 11, 76-91. Roe, C. A. (1998). Belief in the paranormal and attendance at psychic readings. Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, 90, 25-51. Rowland, I. (2002). The full facts book of cold reading (3rd ed.). London: Ian Rowland Ltd. Schwartz, G., with Simon, W. (2003). The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death. London: Simon & Schuster International. Schwartz, G.E.R., L.G.S. Russek, L.A. Nelson, and C. Barentsen. 2001. Accuracy and replicability of anomalous after-death communication across highly skilled mediums. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 65(862):1-25. Schwartz, R. A. (1978). Sleight of Tongue. The Skeptical Inquirer, 3(1), 47-55. Sebeok, T.A. & Rosenthal, R. (Eds) (1981). The Clever Hans phenomenon. New York: New York Academy of Sciences. Sechrest, L. & Bryan, J. (1968). Astrolgers as useful marriage counsellors. Trans-Action, 6, 34-36. Sheehy, G. (1976). Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life. NY: E.P. Dutton. Snyder, C.R. & Fromkin, H.L. (1980). Uniqueness: The pursuit of human difference. New York: Plenum Press. Stollznow, K. (2011). Running Hot and Cold: ‘Psychic Medium’ Rebecca Rosen. Skeptical Inquirer, available at medium_rebecca_rosen/ Tyson, G. (1982). People who consult astrologers: A profile. Personality and Individual Differences, 13, 119-126. Underdown, J. (2003). They See Dead People — Or Do They? An Investigation of Television Mediums. Skeptical Inquirer, 27(5), Ward, N., & Tsukahara, W. (2000). Prosodic features which cue back-channel responses in English and Japanese. Journal of Pragmatics, 32(8), 1177-1207. Whaley, B. (1989). Encyclopedic dictionary of magic. Oakland, CA: Jeff Busby Magic Inc. Wiener, M., DeVoe, S., Rubinow, S., & Geller, J. (1972). Nonverbal nehaviour and nonverbal communication. Psychological Review, 79, 185-214. Wiseman, R., & O’Keeffe, C. (2001). A Critique of Schwartz et al.’s After-Death Communication Studies. Skeptical Inquirer, 25(6), Ziv, A. & Nevenhaus, S. (1972). Acceptance of personality diagnoses and perceived uniqueness. Abstract Guide of XXth International Congress of Psychology, 605.

Actions (login required)

Edit Item Edit Item