Psychics and Self-Fulfilling Prophecies
I’ve gone to a psychic before. A couple of times, in fact. Skeptics accuse psychics of doing “cold readings”, inferring things from a client’s appearance and mannerisms. That’s what I like about psychics. I don’t believe in psychics or horoscopes, but I do find it interesting, from a psychological perspective, to know what a stranger thinks of me. I’m more interested in knowing about the present than the future. If a psychic, doing a cold reading, can tell me that I look unhappy or unhealthy in a specific way, then maybe there’s a real problem that needs addressing.
I’m much more skeptical about psychics’ ability to tell the future. Even if I did find a psychic who could tell the future, would I really want to know the truth? Imagine if the psychic told you that you would never be rich, or that you would die alone. These are real possibilities, but if I were truly psychic, I wouldn’t have the heart to tell my clients the cold, hard truth.
The biggest problem with knowing the future is that it can lead to self-fulfilling prophecy. For example, say I go to a psychic and ask about my love life. She tells me that I will meet a tall blonde at a Starbucks on a Tuesday afternoon. Whether or not the prophecy is true, I might decide that this is the only girl for me. I might ignore the short brunette in the corner, or the tall blonde at the supermarket. Worst of all, I might go out of my way to meet a tall blonde at the Starbucks on a Tuesday, only to end up in a forced and dysfunctional relationship.
The same goes for other aspects. If the psychic tells me that I’ll make money as a writer, I might give up on graphic arts. Or if she says I’ll lose weight in the next year, I may consider it a fait accompli and eat whatever I want. Thinking too much about one specific future can ruin the other myriad possibilities. So even if you believe in psychics, you would do well to not take them too seriously.