The Forer effect occurs when people consider certain statements to refer specifically to them, when in fact the statements are so general that they could apply to anyone. The effect was first identified by psychologist B.R. Forer in 1948 during a test that he conducted on his students in an attempt to discredit astrologers who claimed that personality traits are determined by one’s astrological sign. Forer gave each student a personality test that he pretended would provide an in-depth analysis of that student’s unique personality traits.
Shortly thereafter, he gave each test subject his or her supposedly individualized test results, which included statements like “you have a need for other people to like and admire you” and “at times you are extroverted, affable and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary and reserved.” Forer then asked each person to rate their individualized analysis according to whether it did a good job of describing his or her personality traits. Most of them said that it did. In actuality, though, all of the students were given the same results, and all of the phrases in the “unique personality analysis” were taken from horoscopes published in daily newspapers.
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning