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Pseudo Psychics and the Art of Cold Reading.

I sense anxiety and uncertainty. You have a tendency to be self critical and you often worry
how other people view you. Your negativity can hold you back at times. But these moments of
adversity are just tests of resolve. There is triumph and accomplishment ahead… should you
choose to embrace it.

Extra Sensory Perception research (which examines clairvoyance, telepathy and

precognition) has been conducted for many years across parapsychology laboratories and the
results seem to show that ESP is valid to a small but verifiable degree. Whilst these test
environments (with all the controls and protocols designed to weed out fraud) are artificial, it
seems plausible that the results translate to the real world in some way. In other words, if it
works in the lab – it should work in the outside world.

But in the outside world, there are many people happy to part you from your money; people
who are no more psychic than a rock but who can deliver vague, open-ended predictions
delivered in polished professional ways to provide apparently powerful and meaningful
experiences for the client.

People go to psychics because they have a psychological need. And typically this need is:
reassurance. New events might be difficult or unsettling, and the emotional succour of
verifying things will be okay is of great value. On the other hand, there is clearly less
motivation to seek outside advice if life is going swimmingly. It is this desire for information
that gives the psychic authority and legitimacy. It is given by the client by decree. All the
pseudo psychic has to do – is not screw things up, and repeat custom beckons.

So how do pseudo psychics, also known as cold readers, do what they do? First up is to
establish credibility. The most effective way is by offering information that is private to the
client. If the reading takes place in person, the psychic can draw a lot of inferences from
stereotyping and the visual cues of appearance, demeanour and attitude. Look at any person
and things like clothes, jewellery, age (particularly relevant to questions of health), and
accents reveal a wealth of information. An accent that isn’t local, for example, can be spun
into a long explanation of a ‘journey’, or of being an ‘outsider’.

As this ‘fishing’ expedition unfolds, the cold reader carefully watches the client. Human
beings are remarkably good at providing unconscious feedback through body language (e.g.
nods, tics, stress rubs to the face) and more overt affirmations such as vocalizations and
utterances. All the psychic has to do is probe, and the client will let them know when they’re
on the money. Most clients will even help the psychic, by filling in the blanks. If the psychic
starts discussing a person coming through (and it’s a good idea to start with the letter J for
Men, the letter M for women) – the client will often offer assistance (Ah yes, you mean John,
my Grandfather). The cold reader can choose to incorporate this fact immediately, or
apparently ignore it by continuing to talk – only to reintroduce the information later in the
reading as new information (it’s called setting up repeaters). Alternatively, the cold reader
might finish the client’s sentence for them. By talking over a response it seems as though you
were about to provide the information. “I had an uncle called Wi-” says the client -I’m
sensing a William, does that mean anything? Maybe a Will? interjects the cold reader.If the
cold reader is off base, it’s easy to talk of psychic reading being like weather forecasting.
Sometimes signs and patterns are difficult to unpick.
Providing insight into a client’s personality is another powerful technique for establishing
legitimacy. We tend to think of ourselves as fairly unique. In reality, we’re not all that
dissimilar; we suffer the same fears and behaviors. Thus, Barnum Statements can be
employed. Barnum statements are statements that can be applied almost universally to
anyone you come across. This article opened with one.

It should be noted that high end psychics who really charge top dollar (built on good
reputations) might dig into a new client’s background before a reading takes place. They can
ask for a deposit check, or a phone number (in case of cancellation) then back trace it to
uncover the client’s address. With a name and address, it is remarkably simple to find out
about someone’s employment status, their finances and family life. Field reconnaissance is
not unknown. Peer through the client’s kitchen window, root through the trash, note the car in
the drive. It’s quite impressive to say I see a beautiful blue Lexus, outside a house. Number
24? No…14. Does that make sense to you?

Once credibility is established, the hard work is pretty much done. Now it’s simply a question
of finding topic areas of concern and providing predictions. The rule of thumb here is to
boost accuracy by reducing specifics. Speak of multiple paths ahead, and the ‘choices’ the
client must make. When tackling the area of concern, start by probing health, career, money
or love matters. If the concern is about a divorce (perhaps affirmed by the unconscious
rubbing of the wedding ring finger) - the cold reader can talk about difficult times in the
present, but a rosier happier future where the client emerges wiser and stronger. If the client
wants to know about a potential career change the cold reader can encourage the client to take
the risk if they really believe in it. After all, if the new job doesn’t work out – a myriad of
reasons can be invoked to explain why.

An apparent foreknowledge of the future can provide assurance, security and optimism for
many. It is human nature to want to gain an advantage if possible.

As such, it’s inevitable that there are people out there who seek to take advantage and exploit
the willing. Cold readers are skilled professionals, they wouldn’t remain so if they didn’t
appear to get things right.

This article was written by Dr JJ Lumsden, author of the acclaimed book on the paranormal:

The Hidden Whisper –