|Putting the psycho in|
|Men who stare at goats|
|By the powers of tinfoil|
“”There's no telling, however, how many desperate people called her network because they were fooled by her act and had nowhere else to turn. And that's the depressing part of her legacy — and the legacy of anyone else who pitches pseudoscience or televangelist-style religious blessings. What may be a job for them has the potential to seriously ruin lives.
|—Hemant Mehta, on the death of Miss Cleo|
A psychic is a person purporting to have some sort of supernatural or paranormal ability to receive or interpret information in a way that normal people cannot and that empirical evidence cannot detect. "Psychic" is a fairly catch-all term with regard to the specific abilities claimed, but generally it's taken to mean "communication through the mind".[note 1]
Psychics come in many flavors, claiming a range of abilities such as:
- Talking to the dead - Medium
- Seeing the future - Precognition
- Talking to animals
- Remote viewing of rooms or landscapes
- Offering mystical insight into people's lives
- Reading auras
- Reading minds
- Reading tarot cards and much, much more!
- Playing Minority Report[note 2]
“”I don’t mean to be rude or discourteous, but before we begin, I’d just like to say there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support clairvoyance of any kind. Which means, and again, no insult intended, that you’re a fraud, your profession is a swindle and your livelihood is dependent on the gullibility of stupid people. Again, no offense.
|—Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory - The Anything Can Happen Recurrence (2014)|
No psychic ability has ever been experimentally demonstrated to work reliably in controlled test conditions. If it had, James Randi would be short quite a bit of cash by now. There is zero non-anecdotal evidence that there is anything going on here other than stage magic and conjuring tricks mixed with basic psychology.
“”CLAIRVOYANT, n. A person, commonly a woman, who has the power of seeing that which is invisible to her patron — namely, that he is a blockhead.
|—The Devil's Dictionary|
There are numerous naturalistic explanations for the claims psychics make. In fact, one of the more successful individuals who demonstrates "psychic" abilities is Derren Brown, who openly admits (indeed, this is the point of his show) that there is no magic and no paranormal activity going on and that he's just using psychology, suggestion, and other trickery to create the effects — people who admit to this are known as mentalists. Many psychics rely on the same basic techniques such as cold reading, warm reading, and hot reading to make their victims think that the psychic is actually capable of doing something useful. These tricks use well-understood naturalistic psychological manipulations[note 3] to impress a false sense of a "psychic reading" into the victim.
"Warm", or "hot", reading techniques involve getting the answers straight from the audience's mouths. For example, a researcher will quiz the audience about "who they want to contact" and then passes the info to the psychic secretly. This can be especially deceitful when the psychic then reads off this information and passes it off as coming from their "ability" by claiming that the warm-reading interview beforehand never happened. Sometimes psychics use this to turn around a failing show — selective reporting then ensures that people only remember this miraculous answer, rather than the dozens of incorrect guesses. Peter Popoff is just one of several famous frauds that used warm reading techniques to amass unseemly wealth through the exploitation of the unfortunate gullible.
Psychic skills for sale
Since giving readings is not always profitable enough for the more
greedy popular ones, some psychics and other wizards have created programs or teaching courses to sell to people who believe they can garner magical powers as well. Of course, nothing really happens after finishing the program, but the student will be Officially Certified and they'll likely try to pretend to be a real psychic for a while to justify the enormous amount of money they wasted on the program.
- Erin Pavlina (ex-wife of Steve Pavlina) offers a training course for
$2997$3000. The course involves learning how to contact people's spirit guides (who don't actually exist) and how to read people's chakras (which also don't exist).
- Andrea Hess of Soul Realignment offers a course in learning how to read the Akashic Records (which don't actually exist) for
$1000$997.00. One known victim of this scam was a self-described "intuitive reader" Adrianne DeCotes. Adrianne was providing "spirit guide readings" at some point in time, but ended up pulling the service, probably after realizing that giving specific answers about people's "spirit guides" was more likely to have her exposed as the fraud she was, and settled on giving "intuitive readings" where she'd charge people to tell them in what areas in their lives they were being "blocked" according to their Akashic Records. Her website was hacked in late 2011 and she's basically disappeared off the internet since. Bet she didn't see that coming.
- Anna Conlan offers a "Professional Intuitive Training and Certification Program" (and no one asks where she got the authority to certify people as "professional" wizards) for
$730$925. The program involves learning how to do readings of Akashic Records, spirit guides, and chakras, none of which, as said above, actually exist.
For some reason, they never seem to be able to predict lottery numbers at a better rate than pure chance.
How to expose a psychic in 5 seconds
- What's the harm in believing in psychics?
- I Was a Hotline Psychic for Miss Cleo
- A Former Employee of Miss Cleo’s Psychic Network Reveals the Scam from the Inside Shorter version of the above
- Psychics: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)
- Miss Cleo, Famed TV "Psychic," is Dead
- Psychic Sally Morgan hears voices from the other side (via a hidden earpiece)
- The term can also be applied to exerting some form of influence on the physical world through mental activity alone — see psychokinesis.
- "...and if it weren't for those meddling psychics, I would've gotten away with it!"
- Well, well-understood among psychologists and people who bother to do research, at least. If the general public had a better idea how these tricks worked, a lot of so-called psychics would be a lot poorer.