Psychics can either read minds and perhaps talk to the dead or they can't, and fakes often simply use psychological and underhand tricks to make up a reading. The psychic can tailor the techniques to each individual client, but some are universal.
Atmosphere of Authority
A psychic can set up the consultation room in such a way that the client feels impressed and trusts the psychic. Features of such an atmosphere include books and charts, which indicate thoroughness and education, as well as soft lighting, which promotes client relaxation. A fake psychic may also try to impress the client by using pseudoscientific terms or spiritual jargon to add a sense of ritual and complexity to the reading.
A Barnum statement is an observation that is so vague that it applies to everyone but still sounds like a specific observation. For example, a fake psychic might say "You are a considerate person, but sometimes you can be selfish." The client may then leave the reading feeling as if the psychic were reading him accurately when in fact the reading could apply to anyone.
Cold reading is an integral part of psychic trickery. Psychics using this technique use clues a client unwittingly gives off during the reading. These clues include physical appearance, which indicate the client's health and social status. Expressions indicate to the psychic how receptive the client is to a particular statement, and enthusiasm to a statement shows the psychic that a client thinks the point was accurate; in response, the psychic can delve more deeply into a particular subject.
For example, a psychic on stage may throw out a particular name, such as "John," or mention that someone in the crowd has a particular problem, such as arthritis. He may then wait for someone to agree with this information and then may continue cold reading by giving the audience member more detailed information based on likely qualities of a person of that age and demeanour. He may not get all the observations right, but the audience member may only remember the "accurate" comments and forget about the inaccurate ones.
Hot reading is the technique of finding out information about a person before doing the psychic reading. This way, the client believes the psychic is coming out with information purely from the reading. Examples of hot reading include situations wherein an accomplice chats with the client before the reading or even visits her house under a pretence to gain information.
Mentalism uses magic tricks and sleight of hand to portray the impression of psychic skill. For example, secret cameras can read supposedly secretly drawn pictures, and hidden earpieces can relay information from an accomplice.
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