The Experiment Part Three: How it worked and conclusions

Now, if you’ve read parts 1 and 2, you know what this is all about. If not, go back and read those.

Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I don’t have anything else to do right now….

Ah, back? Good. So, now you know how all of this nonsense got started, how I turned into some kind of creepy, spooky psychic or something and all that stuff.

So, what the hell happened? How did I know all that stuff about the people I did readings for?

There’s no real mystery. The answer is simple.

They told me.

Seriously. They just up and told me. They didn’t consciously know they told me, but they did.

I didn’t really know that what I was doing was a long established procedure at the time. It wasn’t until later that I started to get interested in this kind of thing and started to really look into it in some depth that I learned that I was doing exactly what every other psychic or medium or other bogus fortune teller does. I was getting my subject/victim to tell me what I needed to know.

As I talked with the subject, I was using the cards themselves more as cues, using them to subtly prompt the subject to provide me with clues about themselves. I was gently and carefully leading them down certain paths, watching their reactions. If the reactions seemed positive, I continued. If it seemed I was going down a dead end, I’d switch to a different path. Simply by watching a person’s expression, their eye movements, twitches, body language, you can tell if something you’ve said is of importance to the person.

More often than not, they’d actually just tell me things that I would use later on. Comments so innocuous that they never remembered that they told me. But which were important to me because I would use those comments later to make some kind of ‘startling revelation’, or would use to lead them to give me other information I needed.

What it boils down to is that I didn’t know anything about my subject. I didn’t need to. My subject told me everything I needed to know unwittingly. Through body language, facial expression, ‘tells’, as they say in poker. Through innocuous comments the subject wouldn’t even remember making.

It was scary, really, now easy it was to do it. The subjects genuinely had no idea that the startling revelations I was telling them, the things I couldn’t possibly know anything about but did, were things they themselves had already told me earlier in the reading.

it worked so well that even people who were in on the whole thing began to wonder what the hell was going on.

But there was no magic, no mysticism, no psychic nonsense. It was just me, asking apparently innocuous questions, following cues provided by the subject.

So, the end result of any experiment, even one as ridiculous and completely informal as this one, is the conclusions. What was learned.

Well, we learned a lot, but it was nothing we didn’t already know.

1) It is really, really, really easy to manipulate people. So easy, in fact, that’s actually downright frightening sometimes. It is amazingly easy to manipulate even very intelligent people.

2) People really, really want to believe. Many of them, anyway. They really want to believe that there is — is something out there, some kind of mystical, spiritual other world full of spooks and ghosts and lost loved ones and magic. They want to believe to the point that they will tend to forget the five things you said that were complete nonsense and only remember the one good hit you got during the entire reading.

The last thing I want to talk about is something that I still don’t fully understand, and that is that a certain percentage of people will persist in their belief even if you come right out and tell them you’re a fraud.

That happened at the end of this dopey little experiment. We went back to as many of the subjects as we could and told them they’d been part of this little experiment. We explained exactly what had been going on, what we did, how we did it, everything. Some were mildly irritated, some thought it was hilarious.

But a significant percentage believed. They just plain believed. Oh, I might have thought I was faking it all for the experiment, they said, but it had been real. I was only fooling myself…

Those are the people I’ve always been the most interested in, the ones that we called the TBs or True Believers when I was with the fringe science research group about twenty years ago. These are the people who, even when confronted with irrefutable evidence, still persist in believing, and will go to extreme lengths to rationalize their belief, to explain away the evidence, deny the evidence.

I still remember the fellow who believed crop circles were made by aliens or some kind of mysterious ‘earth force’, whatever the hell that is. One incident in the UK especially. Someone in the group had looked into it, with the expected results. It was, of course, a prank. We had witnesses who were there when it was being made. We had actual video of it being made. We had the actual pranksters themselves. We knew exactly how they did it. We had everything.

He still wouldn’t admit his belief was wrong. Our evidence? The photos? The video? Faked, he said. The witnesses? Either mistaken, hypnotized or mind controlled by the forces that really made the circles. The pranksters? Liars and frauds.

People like that frankly scare me. How they can rationalize away every bit of actual real evidence, while blindly accepting the claims of someone who has been proven to be a fraud or prankster, well, they just plain frighten me.

And unfortunately there seem to be a hell of a lot of them out there, like the anti-vaxxers, people ‘allergic’ to radio signals and EM fields… The list goes on and on.

But, well, you’re probably getting as bored with this as I am.

So, how about a card reading? Hmm?

 

5 thoughts on “The Experiment Part Three: How it worked and conclusions

  1. I know! Its really weird when people refuse to believe that the entire thing is made up. I had one girl who kept asking me every time we met to read her palm even though I had already told her I was just making it up. I really didn’t even try to read my subjects reactions – I went entirely with bland horoscope generalizations which I randomly assigned to the various lines on the hand. People just read into what you are saying something that makes sense to them.

    Which brings me to the interesting thing – I think reading Tarot can be a useful tool for self examination. Pull out the deck and ask the question and lay the cards. You will find yourself interpreting every card in a certain way. Projecting your situation onto the cards. Its very revealing about what you are truly wanting to do, what is scaring you, what is motivating you. Its a way to relax your brain into telling you the stuff that sometimes the logic and the social pressure make us repress.

    I came to this conclusion after a friend who truly believed in Tarot did a spread for me. I was so excited about my little moment of enlightenment and she was offended. I ended up buying a simple computer program for Tarot and started using it to help me figure out things that were bothering me. I haven’t thought about that or done it in a long time.

    Sorry for the long comment. It really didn’t start out to be this long.

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  2. Ah, the wonders of a university education. The orange pips sent through campus mail, virgins sacrificed under the Comet Kohoutek, the formally permitted May Day march on the Capitol with 10 police for each kazoo laden marcher….

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    • I spent large parts of my time in college back then wondering if I was surrounded by five year old’s in adult sized bodies. The one I went to was probably worse than some because it was founded on the principals of ‘ecco’, well, ecco everything, really. … Ecco this and ecco that, which basically was, it seemed, a thinly veiled excuse to grow odd looking ‘herbs’ and smoke the stuff. For a kid who was literally fresh off the farm, it was — interesting.

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