I don’t generally watch much television. We don’t actually have a television in the house, but of course, pretty much anything is available online these days for viewing, and recently I began to watch episode after episode of a fun murder investigation drama called The Mentalist. Each episode begins with a murder and the main character, Patrick Jane, uses his powers of sensory acuity, hypnosis and cold reading to solve the crime. Jane used to work as a psychic, but now claims that there are is no such thing as a psychic.
I had never heard the term cold reading until I came across a few books on Amazon related to it. Wikipedia defines it as follows:
Cold reading is a series of techniques used by mentalists, illusionists, fortune tellers, psychics, and mediums to determine or express details about another person, often in order to convince them that the reader knows much more about a subject than they actually do.
One of the books, How to be a Mentalist, was the one that first caught my attention, but when I looked through the comments, there were some very negative reviews, along with some comments suggesting that the positive reviews were the result of a discount being offered by the author to people who agreed to write positive reviews. The negative reviews did have the positive result of recommending some alternative books, and Full Facts Book of Cold Reading does indeed warrant these recommendations. The author is Ian Rowland. His website is a good indication of his highly amusing, self-deprecating, and extremely honest writing. It says “Ian Rowland – Internationally known as Ian who from where?” There are so many ridiculous and self-important claims made on websites, especially ones trying to sell self-help products, that Rowland’s style is refreshing.
Rowland often poses as a psychic for television shows and uses his cold reading skills to make predictions about the lives and future lives of the volunteers. Afterwards, it is always revealed that he has no psychic power whatsoever. Rowland does not claim directly that there is no such thing as psychic power, but he certainly implies it extremely strongly with his in-depth explanations of how cold reading can be used to create the effect. This debunking of psychics, astrologers, tarot readers, and other spiritualists had me laughing out loud at many points during the book. The author can be very funny.
For me, the most interesting and useful part of the book is the analysis of the elements of a ‘psychic’ reading. I have given some examples below (summarized from the book) that will give you a taste of his ideas.
1. The Rainbow Ruse
The Rainbow Ruse is a statement which credits the client with both a personality trait and its opposite.
“You can be a very considerate person, very quick to provide for others, but there are times, if you are honest, when you recognise a selfish streak in yourself.”
2. Fine Flattery
Fine Flattery statements are designed to flatter the client in a subtle way likely to win agreement. Usually, the formula involves the client being compared to “people in general” or “most of those around you”, and being declared a slight but significant improvement over them.
“…I have your late sister with me now. She tells me she wants you to know that she always admired you, even if she didn’t always express it well. She tells me that you are… wait, it’s coming through… yes, I see, she says you are in many ways more shrewd, or perceptive, than people might think. She says she always thought of you as quite a wise person, not necessarily to do with book-learning and examinations. She’s telling me she means wise in the ways of the world, and in ways that can’t be said of everyone. She’s laughing a little now, because she says this is wisdom that you have sometimes had to learn the hard way! She says you are intelligent enough to see that wisdom comes in many forms.”
3. Sugar Lumps
Sugar Lump statements offer the client a pleasant emotional reward in return for believing in the junk on offer.
“Your heart is good, and you relate to people in a very warm and loving way. The tarot often relates more to feelings and intuition than to cold facts, and your own very strong intuitive sense could be one reason why the tarot seems to work especially well for you. The impressions I get are much stronger with you than with many of my clients.”
4. The Jacques Statement
This element consists of a character statement based on the different phases of life which we all pass through. Jacques Statements are derived from common rites of passage, widely-recognised life patterns, and typical problems which we all encounter on the road to mature adulthood.
“If you are honest about it, you often get to wondering what happened to all those dreams you had when you were younger; all those wonderful ambitions you held dear, and plans which once mattered to you. I suspect that deep down, there is a part of you that sometimes wants to just scrap everything, get out of the rut, and start over again – this time doing things your way.”
5. Barnum Statements
These are artfully generalised character statements which a majority of people, if asked, will consider to be a reasonably accurate description of themselves.
“You have a strong need for people to like and respect you.”
“You tend to feel you have a lot of unused capacity, and that people don’t always give you full credit for your abilities.”
“Some of your hopes and goals tend to be pretty unrealistic.”
6. The Fuzzy Fact
A Fuzzy Fact is an apparently factual statement which is formulated so that (a) it is quite likely to be accepted (b) it leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific.
“I can see a connection with Europe, possibly Britain, or it could be the warmer, Mediterranean part?”
There are lots more in this fascinating book including:
- The Stat Fact
- The Trivia Fact
- The Cultural Trend
- The Childhood Memory
- The Seasonal Touch
- The extended veiled question
- The jargon blitz
- The vanishing negative
If you have an interest in cold reading, communication, or just want to have a fun and informative read, Full Facts Book of Cold Reading is a good choice. Have fun. You can purchase it from the author’s website at: www.ianrowland.com.