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Barnum effect


Who is Barnum

Agree, the effect named after someone is always interesting. It means that there was some person on earth who possessed some special property, was the bearer of that very effect, was his illustration. Or he was lucky enough to discover, to discover a certain pattern in the daily habitual everyday flow of events, something unusual, and this turned out to be such an observation for society that they called it an “effect" and gave the name of its discoverer.

One such effect is the Barnum effect.

Phineas Taylor Barnum – a prominent figure in the American show business of the 19th century, organized his own circus, is known for his hoaxes, books, entrepreneurial talent.

Barnum effect

Born in 1810 in Connecticut. From a very young age, he chose non-standard ways of earning money. At first he tried to organize and conduct lotteries. After he failed in this business, he turned to entrepreneurship. He arranged performances, and then bought it for a museum, where people were going to look at the performances of midgets, Siamese twins, a giantess, and among the exhibits there was even a mermaid. Later, having expanded the staff of "outlandish" people, he opened his own circus. Sometimes he was called "the king of merry trickery" and he gladly accepted this nickname, agreeing with him, but at the same time condemning mediums, whom he simply called swindlers. His performances were not just swindle and deception, it was always a fascinating and well-thought-out story that entertained and amused the audience.

What is the Barnum effect

The basis for this effect was the phrase he said – "Every minute a sucker is born on earth, and I have something to offer to any of them." The effect itself can be explained as follows – a person is inclined to find, be interested in and agree with general and unsupported judgments about his personality, if you tell the person that they were obtained in the process of studying factors unknown to him. Simply put, we want to learn something about ourselves, our destiny and life from third-party sources, not based only on our own experience and our own knowledge. An illustration of the Barnum effect is people’s interest in divination, astrology, palmistry, socionics, etc.

Barnum effect

Agree, how often when we read a horoscope or a description of our own zodiac sign, we agree with the descriptions of our personality proposed for them, how we look for confirmation of what is written or said, how sometimes we “adjust” these statements, how interesting it is for us to agree with facts that are essentially not supported by anything.

Among the factors that influence the depth of this effect: firstly, there must be mostly positive personality characteristics, secondly, the source must be authoritative, thirdly, the subject must be convinced that the description was created individually for him, and finally, the characteristics must be fuzzy.

Barnum effect in psychology

For several decades, psychology has been studying the Barnum effect. Of interest are, first of all, the conditions in which a person most willingly trusts the information offered to him, what type of people are most inclined to trust her, and what information causes the greatest confidence. 

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