Barnum effect

Barnum effect2016-12-08T15:00:39+00:00

Barnum effect 

Barnum image from New Medical Terms

PT Barnum


A coinage referring to the observation that people give high accuracy ratings to descriptions of their personality allegedly tailored specifically for them, which are in fact vague and general enough to apply to a wide range of people. The Barnum effect partially explains the widespread acceptance of astrology, fortune telling, and some types of personality tests.

The term was coined by psychologist Paul Meehl as a nod to PT Barnum. 

The Barnum effect is related in part to subjective validation, which occurs when two unrelated or even random events are perceived to be related because a belief, expectancy, or hypothesis demands a relationship. Thus people seek a correspondence between their perception of their personality and the contents of a horoscope. The name Barnum derives from PT Barnum–circus showman’s assertion that “we have something for everyone”.

Synonyms Forer effect, PT Barnum effect 


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