Bertram, Beggars and Bullshit

Being one of the writers for Mayhem is often fun. Here’s my latest article (due in the next issue, not sure when it’s out), so if it sounds weird, just imagine you’re reading a copy of Mayhem Magazine.


Over the past few months, Mayhem Magazine has been surveying the average characteristics of our readers. Based on our results, we believe that the average reader exhibits the following traits: you have a great need for other people to like and admire you, you have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage, some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic, and security is one of your major goals in life.

Okay, so maybe all of that was a lie. But you kind of believed it, didn’t you?

You shouldn’t feel too bad for being so gullible, though. These are, after all, characteristics that nearly every human believe that they have. Every human is, at least to a certain extent, psychologically the same. It’s a part of who we are as a species.

Enter Bertram R. Forer. Three guesses as to his occupation. That’s right, he was a psychologist and he liked to mind-fuck you. In 1948, Forer gave a personality test to his students (which you also received on reading this article). He then gave them the results, which he claimed was a unique and in-depth assessment of their personality. He told them to mark his assessment out of 5 for accuracy. The average rating was 4.26.

But here’s what he didn’t tell them: everyone’s results said exactly the same thing. They had all been duped. Forer cashed in on the idea, and the thing that happens when you believe really vague things is now called “The Forer Effect”.

Enter Astrology. Part of the research that I didn’t actually do told me that most of you not only know your star sign, but have also read your daily horoscopes. More than once. Maybe even regularly.

Horoscopes are supposed to be able to tell you detailed details about your future based on the date of your birth. That’s not a dictionary definition, by the way. The actual definition is so bloody vague that any half-witted child could argue its legitimacy based on the same vain, self-serving delusions that religion is.

But if you’re still wondering what the connection between Mr Forer and Astrology is… The Sun and Pluto will align to give you a big kick in the head.

After receiving said kick in the head (be patient, it may take years to arrive), you should have figured out that Bertram Forer wasn’t the only guy who milked his discovery for all its worth.

At its very centre, astrology is bullshit. But under that shitty centre, is a solid pylon of psychological mind-manipulation that con men and women, like Fortune Tellers and Horoscope Writers, absolutely love inflicting upon you.

So how can you, too, become as conniving as any caravan-residing Mystic? It’s simple, really. All you have to do is tell your “subject” very vague things that could relate to anyone you know. But here’s where it gets tricky: they’re more likely to believe you if you say that your “reading” only applies to them. You also have to only list positive things about them, and appeal to their vanity. The most important thing of all, however, is to look the part – even if it means donning a cape and carrying a sceptre everywhere you go and speaking in riddles while ending every second sentence in “according to the prophecy”.

With this knowledge in mind, spare a thought for the helplessly thoughtless, the tragically clueless, and the desperately deluded. You now know that comfort is no more a friend than a veil from the truth. You are better because of this, trust me.

So now you know how to cash in on gullibility. Go forth my enlightened ones, and use your powers of manipulation for good, and not for evil (unless it seems like it would be a fun thing to do). And never forget, there’s a sucker born every minute.

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2 thoughts on “Bertram, Beggars and Bullshit

  1. It’s Dylan from TA. Cool read. I liked the mind-fuck at the beginning; it is a very persuasive tactic. Really liked this statement:
    “You now know that comfort is no more a friend than a veil from the truth.”

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