The Cold Read

video: Magician Paul Zenon demonstrates cold reading

Cold reading is a series of techniques employed by psychics, mediums and mentalists that are used to manipulate the customer (sitter) into believing that the psychic can read their mind, or that the medium is in contact with a dead relative or friend.

A cold reading will involved things that are called ‘Forer Statements’ (or Barnum statements) which are designed to encourage the sitter to fill in the gaps in the information being given. Though these statements may appear to be specific they are really very vague and could apply to anybody.

Some examples of such statements would be:

“I sense that you are sometimes insecure, especially with people you don’t know very well.”
“You work with computers”
“You’re having problems with a friend or relative”

The Rainbow Ruse

Similar to Forer statements is the rainbow ruse which involves the use of statements that covers all possibilities and often describe somebody as being two completely different types of person at the same time. Here are some examples:

“Most of the time you are positive and cheerful, but there has been a time in the past when you were very upset.”
“You are a very kind and considerate person, but occasionally you feel deep-seated anger.”
“I would say that you are mostly shy and quiet, but when the mood strikes you, you can easily become the centre of attention.”
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These statements can be found in the ‘Unique Personality Reading’ on our Resources┬ápage.

The Hot Read

Video: Alleged psychic Peter Popoff is caught delivering hot reads to his audience with pre-gathered information

Hot reading is a form of cheating and happens when a Medium or Psychic secretly gathers information about members of the audience in order that they may use this in their performance but pass it off as being a result of their psychic gift.

Additionally, they may research the location they are performing in, and may even invite those recently bereaved whose details they can extract from local sources (newspapers, websites, discussion groups), and the internet. They might ask people to request readings by filling in cards or forms in the foyer, or they might require people give their names when they book tickets and then use this information to simply google them.

The Shotgun

Making random statements in the hope someone will make them fit

This is another tactic which involves revealing a huge amount of very general information to a whole audience and seeing what sticks. A psychic or medium will likely generate many, many misses when they employ these techniques but because of the way our brains work when we want to believe something very badly, many will leave the performance only remembering apparent ‘hits’ or correct guesses.

A typical Psychic or Medium will use all of these techniques in the course of a performance and a skilled cold reader will be able to spin out the brief sentences and statements into paragraphs of psychic prose.

It is worth noting that some Mediums or Psychics may be just naturally good cold readers and don’t realise that what they’re doing isn’t the result of a supernatural gift. Orsen Wells refers to this as ‘becoming a shuteye’. Watch the video below to hear his thoughts.

Watch from the 3:12 mark in the video below to see a psychic shotgunning for hits