Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I know what you will do next summer

Humans are prone to classifying everything into groups. A litany of psychological theories from conformity to stereotyping proves that our brain takes shortcuts to paint groups and collectives with the same brush. Some are closely bonded collectives, one can safely treat each snowflake as similar to the next , despite scientific claims to the contrary. At the other end of the spectrum, you do have the hocus pocus that is astrology which seeks to classify people into neatly defined sun signs. Apart from being widely proved as rubbish, anybody glancing over the horoscope section in your daily paper will recognize the purposefully vague, catch-all language. Later in the day, you can switch over to the business channels for stock market gurus to do the same, but that is for another day:)

Most "soothsayers" don't even try to sound authentic.Sample my recent horoscope on a Sunday which told me I would have a great day at work!

Anybody who cares to run it through any sort of logic which would come up against:
a) the fact that we live in a universe where free will rules and you decide your own fate.
b) the fact that if you could compare 10 different horoscopes on any given day, they will all predict different outcomes thus proving their uselessness by their mere existence.

Any rational person with an iota of critical thinking has already figured this out.
But what accounts for their enduring popularity besides our very human need for reassurance and guidance. Power of suggestion? Subliminal messaging? Placebo effect?

I would love to know whether a study has been done on the effect horoscopes have on an individual's behavior, not as a tool for prediction but for suggestion.
If a person who believes in horoscopes finds that he is going to make money today, does his disposition change to looking out for money-making opportunities and thus, resulting in a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does a person for whom romance is predicted vibrate a certain confidence that attracts? Does a person for whom tragedy is predicted walk around with the air of a man on deathrow?

That reminds of a story which sums it all up beautifully:
An astrologer was walking along a poorly lit road ,greatly troubled. The stars up in the night sky predicted an imminent death for him. He continued looking at the sky , with each step ,his dread increasing.  "How could this be?", he asked himself,"the stars have always been kind to me". He walked along briskly , head tilted upwards almost willing the stars to change. Just then, a strong hand grabbed him by his shoulder and flung him sideways to the ground. "This was it!He was being attacked! This dacoit was the reason he going to die! The astrologer took out his knife and stabbed the dark silhouette repeatedly . Almost with a smug satisfaction at having defied his own fate, he continued on his way only to find an giant open manhole lying in his path. The dying man , by shoving him out of the way, had saved his life!

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