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The Fallacy of Personal Validation a Classroom Demonstration of Gullibility

The Fallacy of Personal Validation a Classroom Demonstration of Gullibility

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Published by David
Brilliant social experiment By Bertram R. Forer.

Forer decided to conduct the experiment after meeting a graphologist at a nightclub who offered to provide a personality reading based on a sample of his handwriting. As Forer notes:

Recently the writer was accosted by a night-club graphologist who wished to "read" his handwriting. The writer declined and offered to administer a Rorschach to the graphologist. An amiable discussion ensued, during which the graphologist ventured proof of the scientific basis of his work in that his clients affirmed the correctness of his interpretations. The writer suggested that a psychologist could make a blindfold reading and attain the same degree of verification.

In essence what Forer's famous study discovered was that things do not need to be accurate to be perceived as accurate. A realization, which for those in know can be exploited very effectively.

www.all-about-psychology.com
Brilliant social experiment By Bertram R. Forer.

Forer decided to conduct the experiment after meeting a graphologist at a nightclub who offered to provide a personality reading based on a sample of his handwriting. As Forer notes:

Recently the writer was accosted by a night-club graphologist who wished to "read" his handwriting. The writer declined and offered to administer a Rorschach to the graphologist. An amiable discussion ensued, during which the graphologist ventured proof of the scientific basis of his work in that his clients affirmed the correctness of his interpretations. The writer suggested that a psychologist could make a blindfold reading and attain the same degree of verification.

In essence what Forer's famous study discovered was that things do not need to be accurate to be perceived as accurate. A realization, which for those in know can be exploited very effectively.

www.all-about-psychology.com

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: David on Jul 15, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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02/05/2014

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Presents
The Fallacy of Personal Validation: A ClassroomDemonstration of Gullibility
By: Bertram R. ForerOriginally published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology
1949, (44), pp. 118-121
 
This paper is concerned with some of the methodological errors whichcan affect estimations of the validity of personality interpretations andmeasuring instruments. Of prime significance is the nature of theinterpretations themselves. Personality evaluations can be, and oftenare, couched in such general terms that they are meaningless in termsof denotability in behavior. Or they may have "universal validity" andapply to everyone. Bobertag (2) refers to the universally validpersonality trait as
Universalscharakteristik
.Possession of two eyes is a characteristic of all vertebrates, hence is of no value as a differentiating factor among vertebrates. The opposingthumb does not distinguish one human being from another. At thepsychological level the acceptance of some cultural taboos appears tobe universal among human beings who live within social groups.Virtually every psychological trait can be observed in some degree ineveryone. For the purpose of characterizing a particular individual,stipulation of those traits which he demonstrates is a meaninglessprocedure. It is not in the presence or absence of a trait thatindividuals differ. The uniqueness of the individual, as Allport (1)amply documents, lies in the relative importance of the variouspersonality forces in determining his behavior and in the relativemagnitude of these traits in comparison with other persons. Thus theindividual is a unique configuration of characteristics each of which canbe found in everyone, but in varying degrees. A universally validstatement, then, is one which applies equally well to the majority orthe totality of the population. The universally valid statement is truefor the individual, but it lacks the quantitative specification and theproper focus which are necessary for differential diagnosis. In a sense
1
 
a universally valid statement is a description of a cultural group ratherthan a personal psychological datum.A universally valid personality description is of the type most likely tobe accepted by a client as a truth about himself, a truth which heconsiders unique in him. Many, if not most, individuals are able torecognize the characteristics in themselves—when it is not to theirdisadvantage—while oblivious to their presence in others. An exampleis the tendency for students to perceive their own problems intextbooks of abnormal psychology. In such cases the individual lacksthe quantitative frame of reference necessary for a critical comparisonof the printed description and his own self-evaluation.At times confirmation by a client or by some other person familiar withhis history is used as a criterion in the validation of diagnosticinferences and procedures (4). Test results may suggest certainproblems and characteristic modes of behavior which therapists or theclient, himself, can confirm or deny. Testing the correctness of inferences about a client by requesting his evaluation of them may becalled "personal validation." When the inferences are universally valid,as they often are, the confirmation is useless. The positive resultsobtained by personal validation can easily lull a test analyst or atherapist into a false sense of security which bolsters his conviction inthe essential Tightness of his philosophy of personality or hisdiagnostic prowess. Such false validation increases his comfort in usingwhat may have been a dubious instrument. A great danger ariseswhen the confirmation of a prediction is extended uncritically to theinstrument or conceptual system or person making the prediction.Such uncritical extensions occur too frequently in the clinical field.
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