The horoscope is a scam: we tell you why

Horoscope and astrology are very commonly used to predict the future. Many newspapers and websites attract large numbers of readers because they include daily predictions based on the zodiac sign, not always following “official” mathematical and astrological methods.

However, not only are the newspaper and web interpretations most likely wrong, the horoscope itself is a scam; we have explained to you why using very basic psychological concepts.

What is a horoscope?

“Horoscope” is a term of Greek origin; “Horoskopos” comes from the words “hour” (which translates to “time”) and “skopeo” (“to examine”, “to observe”).

The word refers to ‘ pseudo-scientific system used to predict a person’s future based on the position of stars at birth or some other special time. Those who interpret these signs are called astrologers.

In Western astrology, predictions are based on the position of the sun, while in the Chinese horoscope the moon is also taken into account because it is based on a lunisolar calendar and not a solar one.

What are the signs of the zodiac?

The birth chart is divided into 12 sectors representing different positions of the eclipticThat is, the apparent journey the sun makes around the earth when observed from it. Each of these segments is identified by a zodiac sign.

The signs of the zodiac represent the 12 constellations of the ecliptic. Each of them is assigned different characteristics that are believed to influence the psychology of people born when the Sun passes through a certain sector of the ecliptic.

Each sign is assigned a “positive” or “negative” pole (extrovert and active versus introvert and passive) and an element (water, air, earth or fire). Besides the signs of the zodiac, other important elements are the planets, which are also believed to influence the personality, and the so-called “houses”, which they determine the relative influence of each planet on the psychology of the person.

How is this interpreted?

The birth chart is calculated using the person’s exact date of birth, including the hour and minutes, as well as the latitude and longitude of where it happened.

Astral chart calculations aim to locate the “mid-cellular RA,” which is believed to determine which planets influenced our personality at the time of our birth.

In astrology, interpretations made using only the position of the planets are considered to have zero validity: according to horoscope experts, it is necessary to make a series of mathematical calculations in a certain order. Howeveror most of the time these prescriptions are ignored, especially in newspapers and websites.

scientific basis

Numerous scientific methodological studies have been carried out to study the hypotheses proposed by astrology and horoscope, including longitudinal studies with reliable control techniques.

None of these studies found the likelihood of stars influencing our psychology. is superior to having a personality trait determined by chance. Therefore, we can say that the scientific basis for the horoscope is zero because there is enough evidence to state that the position of the stars at the time of birth does not influence the personality.

From astrology, several mechanisms have been proposed by which stars could influence our behavior, such as electromagnetism and gravity, but they are hardly plausible from a physical point of view.

For these reasons, horoscope and astrology are classified under the term “esotericism”, referring to practices not based on science but on seemingly arbitrary methods, learning needs to be trained by supposed experts.

psychological explanations

While science in general has shown that the horoscope is a scam or at least its predictions are not based on reality, contributions from psychology are needed to explain why so many people think it works.

The drill effect

Scientific studies have shown that people often identify with very vague personality descriptions if we are told they specifically describe us. This is known as the “Forer effect” or “Barnum effect”.

Bertram R. Forer was a psychologist who gave his students a personality test. He then gave them a supposed description of each person’s personality, asking them to rate from 0 to 5 how much they felt identified with him; the average score was 4.2.

In fact, Forer had given them all the same horoscope-based description. The text contained extremely vague statements such as “You still have flaws in being able to compensate for them” or “Sometimes you are outgoing, kind and sociable, but sometimes you are introverted, cautious and reserved”.

interesting way, In other similar studies, it has been shown that people tend to identify more with such descriptions, Including those of certain personality tests, which with the results of psychological tests supported by science.

This is because we more easily believe what people we consider to be experts say as ambiguous sentences allow us to interpret descriptions subjectively, projecting personal meaning into their statements. Probably also influenced by the fact that horoscopes in general tell us positive things, whereas this is not always the case with serious personality tests.

Confirmation bias

We call “confirmation bias” or “confirmation bias” the tendency we have for people to prefer information that confirms our beliefs over information that supports alternative hypotheses, which we much more easily ignore.

In the horoscope and other aspects of esotericism, confirmation bias manifests itself very frequently.. Usually, when we read a horoscope or a “professional” reads the letters of the Tarot, a large number of statements come to us, among which we will pay more attention to those which we think correspond to our self-image. We will also use phrases that “do it right” to a greater extent to describe us.

Confirmation bias occurs constantly in our lives. Whenever we seek, receive, memorize or interpret information, we are inadvertently favoring opinions that we already had. The only way to avoid this error in reasoning to some extent is to be actively aware of when we are engaging.

If you believe in the horoscope, probably when you read this, you will prefer to think that it is the scientists who have systematically studied the hypotheses of astrology and not you; this is a good example of weak confirmation.

The horoscope is just another scam

There are many pseudosciences, that is, disciplines which present themselves as scientifically plausible but which do not really follow the scientific method or do not claim to do so. In general, these esoteric practices are based on false premises and / or use arbitrary methods.

It is important to clarify that while the sciences are seen as such because their perspectives are derived from previous scientific knowledge, the pseudosciences make similar claims but do not have a strong body of research to back them up, so they often try to take advantage of the status conferred by the qualifier “scientific” without having been able to prove their hypotheses.

Confirmation bias and the Forer effect, widely demonstrated by science, can be enough to claim that the horoscope is a scamIf we add them to the studies that have refuted the hypothesis that the position of the stars at the time of birth influences the personality.

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