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Your Horoscope Is Lying, And Here’s Why

Prague Astronomical Clock | Image: Alan John Lander Phillips / Getty Images

What did your horoscope predict today? Did it foretell your mood, likely career decision or explain the nuances in your relationships?


For the uninitiated, a horoscope is a forecast of a person’s future, typically including a delineation of character and circumstances, based on the relative positions of the stars and planets at the time of that person’s birth. Horoscopes stem from astrology; which is simply a pseudoscience that studies the movements and relative positions of celestial objects in order to gain insight into human affairs and terrestrial events.

Why People Believe In Horoscopes
Why are we drawn to astrology? And why do so many people believe and consult horoscopes? In the United States of America alone, according to a pew research conducted in 2017, about 29% percent of the population believe in astrology. That’s over 90 million people!

According to psychologists, there are several reasons why people believe in horoscopes. Human beings constantly seek narratives to help weave their past, present, and future together through their goals and expectations — and that’s where astrology comes in.

Astrology helps create and validate the concept of self for some. It helps them seek information and assurance about the future, a way to be absolved of their current situation and future decisions, and a way to feel connected to the entire cosmos.

Zodiac signs | Image: Pinterest

Are Horoscopes True?
But are horoscopes true? Does your star sign really define you or what is to become of you? Did you procrastinate today because you are a Taurus?

The thing about horoscopes is that they never predict anything very specific. Instead, they rely upon vague generalisations that stand a pretty good chance of coming true in some way or other in most people’s varied days.

In a classic experiment in 1948, Bertram R. Forer, a psychologist, gave a test to 39 of his students, who were told that they would each receive a brief personality description or sketch based on their test results. One week later Forer gave each student a purportedly individualized sketch and asked each of them to rate it on how well it applied to them.

In reality, each student received the same sketch, consisting of the following items:

[A] You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
[B] You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
[C] You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
[D] While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
[E] Your sexual adjustment has presented problems for you.
[F] Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.
[G] At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
[H] You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
[I] You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof.
[J] You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
[K] At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
[L] Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
[M] Security is one of your major goals in life.

On average, the students rated its accuracy as 4.30 on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent). Only after the ratings were turned in was it revealed that each student had received an identical sketch assembled by Forer from a newsstand astrology book.

This is called the Barnum or Forer effect, which refers to people’s propensity to find personal meaning in general statements. People often accept vague, general and ambiguous statements as applying uniquely to them even though, in fact, they apply to most of the population.

A statement like “you have a great deal of unused potential which you have not turned to your advantage,” applies to most people.

One can liken horoscopes to the safe predictions of Prophet Jeroboam in Wole Soyinka’s play, The Trials of Brother Jero. The prophet can predict that a man would live up to eighty, it is a safe prophecy. After all, if the person dies before eighty, how would that person challenge the prophet? *shrugs*

The danger in taking in too much astrology is that it can become addictive and have a disturbing effect on your personality. People who believe in horoscopes tend not to own up to their actions. They blame their negative traits on their signs.

You can’t be mean and go around saying, “sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, I’m just a Scorpio.”

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