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.
The classic statements
- You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
- You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
- You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
- While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
- Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you.
- Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure 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 pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof.
- You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
- At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
- Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
These were actually the original statements used by psychologist Bertram Forer in his famous demonstration in 1948.
He gave a group of students a fictitious ‘personality test’, and then one week later he presented them with the results.
Every student was given the same personality test results, consisting of the statements above. In fact those statements were obtained by Forer from an astrology book that he got from a news stand.
They were not derived in any way from the test that the students took.
Despite this, the students rated the test as over 80% accurate in it’s analysis of their personalities.
Even though there is absolutely nothing in it that is related to them as an individual, and even though they all got the same results!
They all believed that the classic statements applied to them personally.