In the comments section of the 2013 “Year in Review” article, Nate asks:
This is a bit random, but can you do a post on astrology? Lately i’ve been fascinated by how accurate zodiac signs can be and the possibility of it showing how compatible you are with certain personality types. Obviously there’s gonna be some exceptions, but from what I’ve noticed they are often dead on. It would be interesting to see how well they correlate or if they just create some weird prejudices.
I’ve seen you mention it in a few of your posts and just wanted to see your take on it.
Yes – astrology. Something almost everyone has a strong opinion about one way or another; it’s wonderful, or it’s rubbish.
Yet, however you feel about astrology, it is a fascinating little subject
in-and-of itself... and it’s one
that’s pretty darn fascinating to most of the women you’ll meet, too.
My first exposure to astrology came during childhood, when an aunt of mine bought me a bookmark with my astrological sign and profile on it. I found it amazingly accurate. That was interesting to me, but after that I largely forgot about it.
Many years later, I stumbled across astrological predictions for the upcoming year and, as a means of testing these, went back and examined predictions for my sign by the same individual, a year earlier. I’ve always been curious about the occult, but prefer not to accept anything unless I can test it out; that seemed like as good a test as I could put together (see if the prior year’s prediction matched up with how that year actually went).
Yet, when I went back over that prediction for the year that had just passed, I found it astonishingly accurate. Down to specific events in specific months, and good events and even warnings that rang all-too-true; so true that I laughed when I read them: “Yes, I WISH I’d looked out for that in July!”
And I was amazed: could there actually be something to this astrology stuff?
I couldn’t figure out how it worked. The astrologer’s party line is clearly bunk; the Western zodiac is based on 4,000 year old Mesopotamian star-reading, with the astrological signs unchanged since then – even as the stars themselves have shifted in their positions in the sky. If you want to be completely accurate, according to how astrology is supposed to work, if you’re born during under Libra in modern times, your actual sign is Virgo, technically-speaking. And the whole “stars influencing personality” thing is ridiculous.
But might the seasons themselves have some effect on personality,
similar to the curious trends Malcolm Gladwell observed (and explained)
in Outliers happening with
disproportionate numbers of Canadian professional hockey players being
born in January, February, and March, and almost none of them born in
October, November, and December? Or something else?
And how to explain those predictions?
The Barnum Effect
A fascinating cognitive bias known in psychological circles as the Forer effect, and, more colloquially, as the Barnum effect, after P.T. Barnum, the famed showman (“There’s a sucker born every minute”), observes that people will attribute high degrees of accuracy to otherwise vague statements made about their own personalities.
That means, if you and I meet, I can deliver cold reads to you like:
You have a strong internal need to be liked and admired by others
You seem controlled and collected on the outside, but on the inside you have your own fears, doubts, and insecurities
While you lead a good life and do interesting things, sometimes you wonder if you’re really living life to the fullest of your potential
You take pride in your tendency to think independently, and don’t accept the statements of others without sufficient proof
You have some flaws and weaknesses, but you’re mostly able to make up for them
Sometimes you’re vibrant, outgoing, and social, but other times you’re quiet, thoughtful, and withdrawn
... and you’ll nod your head in complete agreement.
Just like almost everyone else on Earth I might say these things to, too.
Research from 1973 tells us that you’re every bit as likely to accept as true negative Barnum statements as you are positive Barnum statements, and a 2009 study finds that while Westerners and Chinese are equally likely to believe in astrology and buy into Barnum statements, Westerners are more likely to believe that their personal Barnum profile is unique to them, while Chinese are more likely to believe that the statements are as applicable to everyone else as they are to them.
And Barnum statements are a big part of the reason why astrological profiles sound so convincing – because we as human beings (and especially for those of us who are Westerners) tend to assume that whatever’s written or said about us is unique and true – even if it only just sounds unique and true.
Some Things I Can’t Explain
There are some things I can’t explain, that may be due to some sort of mechanism with a measure of accuracy underlying astrology... or may just be due to some combination of pure chance and confirmation bias. After all, throw enough various specific statements at different people, and someone is going to end up having a lot of them be scarily accurate by sheer luck of the draw.
Astrological profiles tend to make a lot of general statements
across all the signs – e.g., in every profile, you’ll read things like
“You’re intelligent” and “You’re a good-hearted person”, for instance.
However, these also make specific personality assessments that contrast between signs, and I find these pretty accurate for most of the people I interact with. Like:
Some signs are described as shying away from the limelight (Capricorn, Taurus) while others head straight for it (Leo)
Some signs are described as brash and brazen (Aries) while others are described as subtle, sneaky, and calculating (Scorpio)
Some signs are deeply emotional and soft (Pisces) while others are cold, hard, and analytical (Aquarius)
Some signs require structure, hierarchy, and order to function (Capricorn), while others are more comfortable breaking the mold (Aquarius) or living in utter chaos, movement, and energy (Leo)
Things like this I have found consistently accurate, and don’t have an explanation for. I’ve had pretty good success guessing zodiac signs (it’s lots of fun when a girl describes her personality for you, and you then tell her her zodiac sign and she goes nuts), but that may well be a case of girls knowing their zodiac signs consciously (or unconsciously) highlighting for you their personality characteristics that most closely match their sign descriptions.
I certainly see big differences between my fun-loving Sagittarius friends, who always want to be enjoying themselves and doing social things, and my detached Aquarius nature, which enjoys their company but finds the “fun” things they enjoy so much to be boring and inefficient uses of time.
And my Leo friends and I tend to both fascinate each other and come to blows with one each other, attract and repel each other, just as polar opposites in the zodiac are supposed to.
My favorite tome on astrology is The New Astrology, by Suzanne White (I strongly recommend picking up a copy if you’re at all interested in this subject or plan to use it with girls – it’s 10 bucks, it’s awesome, and you can get it at the bottom of this page), who fuses Chinese and Western zodiac signs to create a number of new, detailed, and specific readings. After picking up a copy, I found that an ex-girlfriend I’d had one of my longest and strongest relationships with and perhaps strongest initial chemistry had her sign listed as one of the three (out of 144 possible) most ideally matched signs for my own.
So, there are some things I cannot explain in astrology, that I don’t bother much thinking about, since the explanations of astrologers themselves I don’t find very convincing, and there appear to be too many specific examples of astrology being accurate to simply write off... but then, that may just be the pattern-recognition device sitting between my ears going a little overboard focusing on the things that match up and ignoring the ones that don’t (and that’s probably the one any reasonable objective observer with give the most credence to).
In any event, the book on astrology is pretty open and shut, so far as science is concerned; here’s “A double-blind test of astrology”, published in Nature in 1985:
“Tested the accuracy of astrological natal charts in describing the personality traits of 193 Ss (aged 17+ yrs). In Exp I, Ss provided information from which their natal charts and interpretations were constructed by astrologers. Each S then attempted to select his/her own natal chart interpretation from a group consisting of his/her own and 2 others. In Exp II, the astrologers were separately given the natal chart of a random S and a California Psychological Inventory (CPI) description of the S’s personality traits along with CPI descriptions of 2 other Ss. The astrologers selected the 2 CPIs (1st and 2nd choice) that described personalities closest to the personality indicated by the natal chart. The astrologers also rated the CPIs for closeness of fit to the natal chart descriptions. Results indicate that Ss and astrologers scored at a level consistent with chance. The data support arguments against natal astrology as practiced by astrologers.”
... and as for those yearly predictions, well, after that first year, I had a few more that seemed to match up well, and then the astrologer who wrote them retired, and everything else I found was way off base.
Also, I don’t think I’ve ever read a horoscope that says, “This year you will die”, despite the fact that every year, thousands of individuals read their horoscopes for the year who end up never making it to December; you’d think that’d be some pretty important information to predict / include.
So, my official stance on
astrology is, it’s interesting, and while the predictions are all over
the place, the profiles themselves can seem
to be accurate, and I’ve actually made fairly reliable forecasts about
relationships between myself and past girlfriends would go depending on
their astrological signs (e.g., me, the cold, detached Aquarius with a
soft, tender, emotional Pisces – not so good a mix)... but there’s enough missing that it’s not
worth making any major life decisions over.
That said, I do still keep an eye out for gals with signs compatible to me. Call it superstition.
Anyway, you aren’t here to read about my personal beliefs on
astrology; let’s talk about how you
can use it with girls.
All those things I just talked about in the last section that I find fascinating and that I can’t fully explain to my own satisfaction (call me kooky) even after reading the research on it? They’re JUST as fascinating – if not MORE so – to most women.
Most of the men I meet think astrology is a whole lot of hokum, but the women are another story altogether. I’ve met very few women who dismiss it outright (though did have an especially rational Chinese economist girlfriend who was entirely unimpressed by my tales of astrological predictions come true and accuracy of profiles – “That could be true of ANYBODY!” she said when reading her one such profile in an effort to convince her of the uniqueness; maybe that’s that Western / Chinese thing).
And when you guess their signs right, or can tell them about their signs, as I mentioned earlier in this article, their eyes pop out, their jaws drop down, and they think you have magical powers.
And let me tell you – EVERY woman wants to sleep with a man with magical powers who can see right through her and tell her things about herself other men will never know.
Astrology as a Tool for Deep Diving
Here’s my favorite site for Western zodiac sign explanations: Astrology Online.
When I have a computer handy (I don’t use Internet on my phones –
personal choice; I’m a busy enough guy without apps and interruptions
and the web), if I don’t have
Suzanne White’s New Astrology
on me, or I want something simpler to skim, I go here. Sometimes I’ll
start with Astrology Online, then move to New Astrology, because then it lets
us do astrology deep diving twice over, instead of only once.
What’s great about a detailed astrological profile – whether you think there’s something to it or that it’s complete rubbish – is that people enjoy reading about things that are SUPPOSED to be about them, and then either confirming or denying them.
Here’s the conversation you have with girls about astrology – doesn’t matter an ounce whether they believe it or not:
You: Hey, so what do you think about astrology?
Her: I think it’s pretty amazing / I think it’s silly / I don’t know much about it.
You: Yeah, it’s pretty neat, huh? / Yeah, it is kind of silly, isn’t it? / Hmm. Well, it’s a little silly, but also sometimes a little fun to think about.
You: Here, let’s take a look at your profile and see how accurate it is, or how silly it is. When’s your birthday?
That’s it. Same exact conversation;
only thing different is what you say in response to how she says she
feels about astrology. That’s it.
No different. (also, you ask for birthday, not sign, because you convey
more of an “expert” feel by asking for the birthday rather than the
sign – that’s one of those 1% edges that doesn’t make a huge
difference, but adds up)
Notice that at no point here do you say, “I TOTALLY believe in astrology!” or “The zodiac is utter hogwash, and those who believe it are fools.” You never state a concrete opinion one way or the other. That’s because you don’t know how this girl really feels about it, and chances are she’s being guarded about her opinions because she doesn’t want to alienate you or be judged by you:
There are girls who will say, “Yeah, astrology’s pretty cool, I guess,” who in fact think it’s silly superstition, but they’re giving a noncommittal answer because they think you might be interested in it and don’t want to hurt the connection with you.
Alternately, there are girls who will say, “Astrology seems pretty silly to me, really,” who in fact are secret zodiac fanatics but don’t want to sound too New Age-y in front of a man (most men don’t care for the zodiac, she knows).
So don’t assume you know her true feelings about astrology before you start really diving into it with her, and don’t go spouting about your opinions. A seduction is never about YOU; it’s about HER. Keep that in mind. You can share your disdain for or fanaticism about astrology later... once the two of you are lovers.
Now, back to her profile: what happens once you start going through her profile with her?
You deep dive her like crazy.
You get to know all about her – her secrets, her thoughts, her motivations, her flaws, her points of pride. Things you would never come across in normal conversation without it. Buried childhood memories get dredged back up and shared; secret hopes and dreams she only thinks about late at night come spilling out.
And all because she’s trying to either show you how she fits into her astrological profile, or show you that the profile’s got her all wrong.
Fun and Compatibilities
Astrology’s additionally a fantastic way to find all kinds of things you can use to tease girls in playful, harmless ways. This is an ESPECIALLY powerful tool when you find yourself in a lifeless conversation with a mostly-boring girl.
I know you’ve had them... those interactions where you’d probably like to sleep with the girl, but she’s SO BORING and has SO LITTLE going on in her life that you don’t see how you’re going to make it another 10 minutes in the conversation, let alone all the way up to the two of you being in bed together. You may find yourself wondering how any man has EVER slept with this girl before... after those first few minutes of conversation run out and she’s standing there staring at you like a piece of driftwood no matter what you say or do, or how intriguing you are, or how much you probe into her background (uneventful childhood; no hobbies, dreams, or passions; no goals in life), you wonder how any man could possibly make it out of those conversational doldrums.
Astrology to the rescue! It’s tons of fun with even really interesting girls, but can really save your behind with girls who’ve otherwise got nothing to say and nothing to share.
Even boring girls dig the zodiac.
Once you start going through her profile, you’ve got all kinds of things to chat with her about, and tease her about.
She’s Aries? “Hmm... says here that Aries are ‘dynamic and quick-witted.’ That’s good! ... also says that you are... let’s see... ‘foolhardy and daredevil.’ Uh-oh. Sounds like you get yourself into quite a bit of trouble.”
She’s Cancer? “It says you’re very shrewd, loving, and intuitive. Those are pretty good qualities! Oh, but wait... it says you’re a homebody, too. ‘Nest like is an appropriate adjective for the Cancerian home, for its inhabitants tend to favor the dark, mysterious but comfortable type of house which has something of the air of a den about it’ – hmm, that true?! Which room is the cave in your home?”
Once you’re good with astrology, you can use it without having to
have a reference in front of you, as you come to learn well the signs
of important people in your life, and new lovers and girlfriends you
take who play key roles.
If you find yourselves listed in the compatibilities sections while reading profiles, that can make for fun flirting fodder: “According to this, we’re a match made in heaven. So, we should probably go date other people and then come back and find each other once we’re ready to settle down, in like 10 years. Agreed?” or “It would appear we’re worst enemies, destined to tear each other to shreds. We should make sure nothing EVER happens between us,” followed up immediately with a manhandle kiss.
And you can always tease Capricorns about their tendencies to fall for the wrong person, although it becomes less funny when a Capricorn girl starts telling you she loves you not long after first sleeping together with you.
... is that if you haven’t used the zodiac with women before, and even if you think it’s rubbish, you’re probably going to try it out sometime soon. It’s just fun, and it’s an easy way to spice up your interactions and get women opening up to you in ways you couldn’t have any other way.
Again, I’d advise keeping your feelings on astrology muted, at least before sleeping with a girl; whether you’re a diehard skeptic or a true believer, or you’re somewhere in between, all she should hear from you is that it’s “interesting to think about” and that you want to find out how accurate or not her profile is. That’s it. This isn’t “share your opinion” time – it’s get to know her time.
If you’re using astrology right, you can get to know a girl pretty easily, pretty fast. Just like other forms of cold reading, astrology is a wonderful tool for astonishing women at how much you know about them without even knowing them.
So, hang up your skeptic hat, or put away your true believer crystal ball; this is about using astrology as a tool for connection-building. It’s just another tool in your tool belt, but kind of like a hammer, it’s one that you can use in a variety of situations, for a variety of different jobs.
Best of all, the zodiac is easy to use, and tons of fun. Enjoy it!