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What Is Cold Reading?

Cold reading is one of the main Mentalism techniques. It’s used not only by mentalists but also by illusionists, scam artists and fortune-tellers.

The principal purpose of this technique is to get information about other people.

Within Cold Reading there are many specific techniques, the  2 most important are:

Shooting Technique

The name of this technique describes very well the way it works, especially when dealing with a bigger group of people.

The idea of this technique is to “shoot” with general questions/information and observe the body language of the spectators.

When you observe any reactions to the “shooting”, gradually narrow the statements. Then speak only about the information to which the spectator responded best.

It is important to use general statements. The statements should be adapted to the appearance, gender and age of the recipient.

For example, when talking to elderly people. The Mentalist wouldn’t talk about their first love but can talk about health-related issues. Majority of the elderly experience some kind of health problems.

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The Forer effect (Barnum Effect)

It is based on statements that seem to describe a particular person, however, in reality, are related to a large group of people.

The Mentalist may say, “I feel you have a problem with a family member or a friend.”

Although the statement seems to be personal,  it is not.  Each of us has some kind of problem with a relative or friend.

By using this technique you will often convince people that your description of them is very special and unique and they will not be aware that it can apply to anyone else.

This mentalism technique is named after psychologist Bertrams R. Forer, who carried out the following experiment on his students:

  1. He asked the students to complete a personality test
  2. After completing each student received an analysis of his personality based on the test
  3. The students thought that the results were personal
  4. However, every student received exactly the same analysis, that contained horoscopes and general information. For example, the analysis included statements like this: “From your own experience you are aware that sometimes it is better to lie, so you don’t hurt another person.”
  5. Forer asked the students to assess the accuracy of his analysis on a scale from 0 (low) to 5 (very high).
  6. The average rating was above 4.