Drill Effect: Why Do Some Guessing Tricks Work?

Many people are surprised that, although they have no scientific basis, the various divination systems that seek to describe our lives can come close to reality.

How do you explain that some guessing tips seem to work?

How is it possible that, on the basis of a seemingly arbitrary criterion such as a roll of cards, its own characteristics can be represented? Where’s the trick? Although the various esoteric disciplines cannot offer any explanation for this subject to falsifiable results, psychology has provided a construct based on experimentation that clarifies this phenomenon. This construction is what we call today Drill effect.

An experiment which showed the farce of divination

In 1948, the American psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave his students a personality test. The teacher then gave each student a worksheet with the results of the personality analysis. He then asked the students to rate from 0 to 5 the accuracy with which he thought the personality analysis portrayed them, being 0 “very bad” and 5 “excellent”. The average mark was 4.26.

The students’ surprise must have been great when Forer revealed to them that in fact, they all had the same result. The individualized personality analysis was not such and, in fact, the text given to the students was nothing more than a single collection of sentences taken from horoscopes:

“You need others to appreciate and admire you, and yet you are critical of yourself. Although your personality has certain weaknesses, you are usually able to compensate for them. You have a lot of unused capacity that you haven’t taken advantage of. Always disciplined and in control on the outside, you tend to be fearful and insecure on the inside. Sometimes you have serious doubts about whether you did the right thing or whether you made the right decisions. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and feel disappointed when you find yourself surrounded by restrictions and limitations. You are also proud to be an independent thinker; and not to accept the claims of others without sufficient evidence. But you find it unwise to be very outspoken in revealing yourself to others. Sometimes you are outgoing, kind and outgoing, while other times you are introverted, cautious and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be quite unrealistic. “

Shortcuts to the mind

To summarize, The Drill Effect is nothing more than the manifestation of a form of cognitive bias. This shows the propensity to accept as original and clean descriptions which are in fact sufficiently ambiguous and generalist to be preached by virtually anyone. Thanks to this tendency, Forer has succeeded in passing off as an original a “reading of the personality” which is characterized precisely by its lack of precision when talking about the attributes that a person can have, but in any case he surprised the people. students by its fidelity reflection of reality.

In addition, this experiment was repeated many more times, and obtained very similar results (the people evaluated generally score no less than 4 out of 5 for the precision of the analysis). From these experiences, we know that there are three factors which, when given, accentuate the Forer effect:

  • When, apparently, the analysis is personalized.

  • When the analysis shows above all positive aspects that the assessor considers positive.

  • When the person rated you gives authority to the evaluator.

Interpreting the drill effect

The explanation The reason why this happens is usually related to desirability and expectations. On the one hand, there is a tendency to give more credibility to satisfactory explanations of reality, compared to others which satisfy us less. Additionally, the expectation of getting a personality analysis creates a propensity to accept the results.

On the other hand, we make our own an explanation that gives meaning to our experiences, and from this position we accept information that fits well with this explanation while denying or ignoring information that contradicts it: this is what called confirmation bias. .

Knowing how the Forer effect works, it is easy to imagine why in certain circles there is acceptance of certain disciplines of fortune telling as the astrology. Its esoteric nature means that apparently few people know how divination works, giving the fortune teller an authoritative role.

The ambiguity it is a card that we always play with, because the person being assessed will tend to give meaning to inaccurate but broad and complete explanations: this is particularly clear in the case of the horoscope. In the case of real-time divination sessions, ambiguous statements at the start allow information to be gathered from the subject being assessed, and therefore it is possible to dare to specify more by moving the session forward.

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