What is Cold Reading?

Cold Reading

Cold Reading is a technique used by stage performers (mentalists), psychics, and mediums, to give the impression that they “know” things about the subject that they could not possibly know.

In a cold reading, the reader will apply high-probability guesses in an attempt to find truths that resonate with the subject. Any guesses that hit the target are reinforced, and developed further, whilst any that are in the wrong direction are instantly discarded.

This maximising of the correct guesses, and instant dropping of the wrong ones, creates an impression in the subject’s mind that the reader is right more often then they are wrong.

The reader is usually aided in this by the subject’s own desire for the reading to work.

Anybody who goes to see a medium, or a psychic, clairvoyant, or even a stage performance, actually wants it to work.

If they didn’t want it to work, why would they go in the first place?

The subject is then, subconsciously predisposed to believing the reading. They will actually collaborate by discarding the ‘wrong’ parts themselves and concentrating on the ‘right’ parts, just like the reader does.


The subject’s desire for a successful outcome leads them to build on chance connections and coincidences, and to ignore mismatches, in order to get the result they were hoping for. Continue reading “What is Cold Reading?”

12 Classic cold reading lines

Classic cold reading uses 12 statements (Barnum statements), that are true for virtually everybody.

The 12 classic lines have been around for a long time now, and may appear a little out-dated or corny today. And of course, there is a good chance that they may sound familiar which may ruin the effect!

However, they serve as a useful example of the principles of cold reading, and could be rewritten to create a more modern (and previously unheard) version. Continue reading “12 Classic cold reading lines”

Cold Reading Books

Here is a selection of the most popular and recommended books on cold reading. All are available on Amazon, where you can read reviews and ratings on all these cold reading books.


full facts book of cold reading book

The Full Facts Book Of Cold Reading by Ian Rowland

‘Cold reading’ can loosely be described as ‘how to talk to a complete stranger as if you have known them all your life’. This definitive yet easy-to-read guide explains every aspect of cold reading in detail. Although the book focuses on how cold reading is used within the psychic industry, many cold reading principles have applications in other fields such as selling, negotiation, management and therapy. This is a ‘must read’ book for anyone interested in the psychology of persuasion.
Continue reading “Cold Reading Books”

Derren Brown on cold reading

In this series of videos, illusionist Derren Brown explains cold reading and the techniques behind it to Richard Dawkins. The videos provide a useful insight into cold reading techniques and how they can be employed in fake psychic and medium performances. The combination of Derren’s inside knowledge of the techniques, and Richard’s famous sceptisism of, well just about everything, leaves the viewer in little doubt that many mediums and psychics are indeed fake.

They discuss our willingness to believe (an essential requisite of cold reading), and how the odds are stacked in favour of the medium. Psychics and mediums are subject to less scrutiny than illusionists and mentalists because they never promise anything and the audience understands that the spirits don’t always cooperate. Magicians however, have to produce something pretty stunning in order not to be discredited. Continue reading “Derren Brown on cold reading”

References for cold reading

These links will provide useful further information and background for anybody interested in learning more about the art and science of cold reading.

Many of these references approach the subject from a sceptical point of view, that is not to say that there are not genuine mediums and psychics out there. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and other stage performers to create an illusion. It is also unfortunately employed by unscrupulous and fake mediums and psychics to do the same thing.

A genuine psychic would not have to use cold reading techniques. If you spot these in use, then it’s probably an indication that you are not dealing with a genuine psychic.