A group of online vigilantes organized by skeptical activist Susan Gerbic is on a mission to expose fake celebrity psychics. The psychic services industry has always been vulnerable to scammers feigning psychic abilities, but modern technology paves the way for them to gather more personal information about clients in order to deliver seemingly true readings, clouding the credibility of people with genuine talent.
The Forer Effect
Fake psychics have a few tricks up their sleeves to convince audiences of their credibility. A person with genuine psychic abilities has the skill and knowledge to connect spiritual energy with a client’s life: a truly accurate psychic is an energy reader, able to glean information about the client by examining their spiritual energy. Someone posing as a psychic, however, gathers as much information about the client as possible without reading spiritual energy and makes vague statements that could often apply to anyone. This is known as The Forer Effect, after psychologist Bertram Forer, who first discovered the manipulative effect of making general personality comments to convince someone they were being profiled accurately. This is a tactic employed by many disingenuous psychics, who may avoid making definitive statements (for example, “You struggle with depression”) and instead say something that could speak to a number of people (for example, “There has been deep sadness in your life at times.”)
A true psychic reading doesn’t rely on ‘proving’ that the reader is genuine, and telling the client a lot of information they already know about themselves has little place in a genuine consultation. A false psychic, however, might take ‘cold readings’, using clues presented through a client’s body language or clothing choice to make vague guesses about them, which the client (who is likely already open to the idea that they’re speaking to someone with psychic powers) will back up and provide further information about. Susan Gerbic’s vigilantes, meanwhile, are looking into the ‘hot reading’, in which a psychic comes prepared with details about the client. They are able to use social media and general internet searches to find personal details easily, which they can then use in a consultation to gather further information about the client. They tend to keep readings vague, and backtrack when they get something wrong, signaling to the client that the spirits’ messages are vague or difficult to read clearly. While a genuine psychic reader is reading energy, a fake psychic is reading body language and looking for small clues that tell them when they’ve got it wrong so they can adjust their reading accordingly.
Finding A Genuine Psychic
A genuine psychic is able to give specific information about things which aren’t obvious, and guide you using the energy they read in a consultation. However, they should know their limits, so their website or advertisement should not claim that they can contact the dead: a true psychic does not claim this kind of control. Spirits may appear during a reading, but this is not something a reader has any power over. They should also not guarantee 100% accuracy: just as in any other field, this is not a logical human claim. It’s also a red flag if a psychic claims to be able to find a true love match: a psychic is able to read spiritual energy, but has no control over human will.
The psychic services industry is unregulated, which can make it difficult to navigate scams and find genuine readers. Susan Gerbic’s team uses fake Facebook profiles to catch disingenuous psychics and then posts the evidence online, so it’s possible to find psychics who have been proved fake. Those who are interested in meeting with a psychic should research carefully first and be wary of a reader who asks a lot of questions in the preliminary consultation, being mindful about the amount of personal information they share online.