Are All Mediums And Clairvoyants Con Artists?
Whether you believe in telepathy and fortunetelling or not, it's clear that the psychic industry is infested with fakes. Sociopaths who prey on the vulnerable by pretending to contact the dead to extort money, but are all mediums con artists?
If you believe in the supernatural, psychics or fortunetelling, then in order to fully enjoy this post you're going to need to suspend your belief for a little while or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate.
Let's get straight in to it... Psychics aren't real.
Mediums, clairvoyants... whatever you want to call them can't read your mind, they can't foresee your future and they can't talk to the dead. Whether they're reading your palms, a crystal ball or tea leaves, no one has ever been able to prove that they have psychic powers. I'm not going to debate this issue any further in this post.
In the UK alone there are over 400 register businesses which offer the services of a psychic as well as hundreds more clairvoyants who offer their services in their free time but if mediums are't real then does it mean these hundreds of people are all charlatans, frauds and con artists or are some psychic mediums really out there just to help people?
I'm asking this question as a result of a conversation I had with a friend last night, he believes that all psychics, every single one is exploiting their customers intentionally for monetary gain.
I however have a slightly different opinion on the matter. Of course there are outright scammers in the industry, real con artists who are lying through their teeth about having a skill. You can also say the same for the plumbing trade, builders and many other professions. I don't think even the most devout believer in psychic powers would disagree with me on this point.
Not all psychics are con artists. Like the plumbers and builders, it's only a small percentage who lie about their abilities to rip off the general public, most mediums have a skill but that skill isn't psychic power.
Psychics are deluded and misguided but ultimately they genuinely believe they do have powers and it's not their intention to scam anyone, they want to help people and believe they are helping people.
To understand how I've come to this conclusion, let's first take a look at how the dishonest scam people into believing they can communicate with the dead.
The con artists use a few techniques to fool their clients, firstly before the stage show or one-on-one reading they'll gather as much information on the client as they can. If it's stage show psychics often employ assistants to float around in the venue's foyer before the show listening to conversations. In one-on-one sessions the psychic might look up information based on the name or address of the person they're going to visit.
Armed with this information the psychic then uses a technique during the sitting called "cold reading." This common and well known technique involves giving vague phrases, names and dates to the client until something sticks, once the psychic has that hook they will elaborate on it, ignoring their failures, correcting themselves as they go, and highlighting and repeating their success so that the client goes away only remembering the bits the psychic got right.
This involves watching the client's body language and making judgements based on the sex, age and looks of the client. For instance, a woman of 88 visiting a psychic is very unlikely to have parents who are still alive, where as a younger customer would probably still have parents so in their case the psychic might make contact with their grandparents.
Usually people come to see a psychic because they're looking to make contact with someone specifically, by assessing their client, the psychic can usually make an educated guess based on their age and visual indicators such as wedding rings and pretty quickly deduct who it is the client has recently lost.
I'm not saying that this is easy and anyone could do it, the art of subtly coax information from a person is a practiced skill but it can be taught and relies heavily on "The Barnum Effect," the tendency for people to apply a statement to themselves assuming that they are different and unique and that the statement could relate only to them. In reality it is a catch-all statement. Below is an example, is it you I am talking about?
"Generally you are a cheerful and friendly person but there has been a time in the past when you were very upset. You still think about that moment sometimes and you haven’t fully got over it, or dealt with it yet, but you will in time."
When someone practices these skills, meeting client after client on a daily basis, they get quite good at it, they start to notice the subtle signs when something they've said resinates with the client like a twitch, a sideways glance, a smile or an uncomfortable shuffle. Over time these skills can be come second nature and here lies my belief that not all psychics are con artists.
Without doubt some people believe themselves to be gifted, for whatever reason they truly believe they can talk to the dead, that they are highly emotive or that they know what people are thinking. I think these people probably are gifted, not with a sixth sense but with intuition.
There is a majority sub-set of psychics who truly believe they are reading the minds, seeing the futures and talking to the deceased relatives of their clients. Where as a con artists looks at a client and calculates how to manipulate the reading based on the previously mentioned clues, I think the majority of psychics subconsciously pick up on these same emotional and visual clues and come to the same conclusions as a con artist. For example they may "feel" that an older client wants to make contact with a parent who has passed on, where as they'd get the "feeling" a younger client may be want to hear from a lost grandparent.
These genuine psychics are doing their job to help people but they're mistaking normal intuition with a psychic ability. The effects are amplified by positive feedback. When a psychic makes a statement based on a "feeling" they've had that turns out to be correct, they've unwittingly stumbled across a Barnum statement and the fact it was effective means that subconsciously that statement is validated and the psychic may now be more likely to use that or a similar statement again in a future reading.
Just like when the client ignores the Barnum statements that don't apply to them but leaves the session with the memory of those that did, the psychic's belief in their own ability means they too gloss over the bits they got wrong and after the session will reflect on what they got right, perpetuating the self belief.
What it boils down to is that there are two types of psychics: fraudsters and the deluded. The fraudsters are unethical, liars who prey on the vulnerable for their own financial gain, they all use the same set of techniques to manipulate their clients.
However every psychic who falls into the delusional category has their own differing techniques, a unique way of working. They might use cards, a crystal ball or simply mutter phrases in the darkness, but however they access their spiritual side just happens to be the way they've subconsciously conditioned themselves to get the best results. It's no different to a football player having a pre-match ritual which he's convinced brings him good luck.
The deluded psychic is ethical, honest and they are trying to help people. Even though they're not really making contact with the dead, the majority of the time they tell their clients exactly what they need to hear and they do help people.
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