What is cold reading?
The world of psychics is a nebulous one. Because there are no official governing bodies through which you can check a psychic’s authenticity, the profession is left wide-open for exploitation through charlatans and fraudsters. However, there are certain practices that, if you recognize them can lead you to spot a trickster at work. Cold readings are one such practice.
In a cold reading, the purported psychic uses a series of techniques to elicit information from a subject; information that he could, apparently, have no way of knowing and therefore ‘proving’ his abilities as a psychic. Without knowing the subject, a skilled cold reader can actually obtain a lot of information simply by interacting them. Many cold readers are skilled in reading body language, but it is possible to make educated assumptions about someone through factors such as their age, clothing, gender, ethnicity, speech patterns, accent, hairstyle and choice of jewellery. By focusing on these and other clues, a cold reader can make informed guesses about the subject. Often, and without realizing it, the subject will confirm or deny these guesses, through body language and other ‘tells’.
Cold readers may also use leading questions and statement to encourage the subject to reveal something about themselves. They may offer up vague statements, suggesting that are experiencing visions or receiving psychic messages that are not clear to them; the onus will be on the subject to decipher the messages but, in reality, they will simply be reinterpreting the reader’s statements. Once again, this produces the effect that the reader has some supernatural ability.
As an extra ‘back-up’, the reader will spend very little time talking through the incorrect assumptions he has made, but will probe any successful guesses in great detail. This helps to gain the subject’s confidence and also encourages them to reveal further details about themselves, reinforcing the reader’s apparent talents.
There are a number of techniques used by cold readers to make themselves appear to have some psychic ability. Until there is a surefire way of vetting psychics, there will always be those who seek to exploit the beliefs of others.