Akika says: Read This

By Geisha Bar

A friend of mine passed away a few years ago, and with my usual logic blinded by grief, I did what any standard mourner would do and booked an appointment to see a medium. Walking into her spiritual lair, I immediately noticed the tacky abundance of quartz crystals (when will people understand that tectosilicates have no magical powers apart from being a good makeshift murder weapon?).

The medium did her darndest to cover all the bases, from mentioning an elderly man in a military uniform (one of my great great uncles possibly?) to telling me that a woman was showing me a rose – too vague and inaccurate. She gave me a list of my current health problems and was wrong about every single one!

When we had about 15 minutes left, she asked me if I had any questions. Deciding to give her one more chance, I asked her whether there was any contact from my friend. She hadn’t mentioned him yet, probably because it’s not in a cold reader’s best interest to assume friend deaths for anybody under the age of thirty.

Obviously, she began to “get something through” immediately, telling me he loved me very much and was having a beer with an older man (“perhaps his grandfather?”). She told me that the older man “liked the odd bet on the horses”. Wow, she absolutely nailed this unidentified relative – I’ve literally never heard of an old man who liked the odd bet on the horses.

Then she went on to tell me that my friend was wearing glasses (nope), had a moustache (nope) and seemed cheerful. Clearly she was actually having a spiritual interaction with Ned Flanders.

If nothing else, the $50 I wasted that day was well-spent, because it gave me a stark reminder of the fact that death means death – I was rather embarrassed at my tomfoolery of trying to derive spiritual meaning from a sad situation, if I’m being honest.

Unfortunately, too many people out there are susceptible to forking out money to be cold read by people calling themselves “clairvoyants.”

So what is cold reading?

It’s a technique that frauds use to convince others that they can communicate with the “spirit world”, or that they possess some kind of sixth sense. Cold readers are in good stead already because the type of person that seeks them out is usually in some way vulnerable or dissatisfied with their own lives. These kind of people “want” to believe the cold reader, so half the battle is already won.

The minute you arrive, you are providing a cold reader with information about yourself. Your age, gender, ethnicity, clothes, your style, the car you parked out the front, your manner of speaking – EVERYTHING will be used by them to present back to you a fairly accurate “reading” of who you are as a person. They will use seemingly-specific statements that really apply to most people, but of course you are wanting to get an authentic experience so you find personal meaning in them. These could be things like “you’re a very warm and kind person, yet at times you can be reserved in communication,” or “you had a fairly happy childhood but often felt misunderstood, or like the black sheep in your family.”

Cold readers will start very vague and hone in on certain areas once they receive positive feedback from the sucker in front of them. Often, the person being read gets so involved in their “spiritual experience” that they inadvertently give the cold reader answers without realising it.

This is done through “fishing”, where the reader rephrases questions as statements, waiting for the subject to offer information, so that they can then target that specific thing. People

who go to clairvoyants often desperately need to talk to somebody about their problems, so this is the biggest ace up a psychic’s sleeve, because most of the information that they feed you is actually coming from yourself.

“I’m getting a J, a Jenny, or John, or a Jackie, or a Jack…” they will say. The target then excitedly might say “My grandfather’s middle name was Joe!” and so begins the “contact with the spirit”. However after the reading, the subject won’t remember that the clairvoyant didn’t actually give the name, they will just enthusiastically tell their friends that the clairvoyant “got my grandfather coming through”.

This is just selective memory coupled with confirmation bias – the subject has filled in the blanks themselves while believing that this information actually came from the psychic. Because of this, it’s incredibly hard to convince a person that they have been cold read. A cold reader’s space is set up to try and induce some sort of spiritual or emotional experience for the subject, so trying to convince someone that their experience was not the spiritual enlightenment that they remember is near-on impossible.

So do yourself a favour and don’t get sucked into it in the first place!