Barnum Effect: Will individuals rate a description of themselves as being more accurate if they believe it was written specifically for their star sign Abstract
This study is a partial replication of the work carried out by Snyder (1974) on the Barnum effect. Two groups were used, one were told that their description had been specifically written for their star sign, whilst the other group was told that they had received a general personality description. Both groups were then asked to rate the description on a scale of 1-5 for being accurate, as expected the group who thought the personality description was for their star sign on average gave the description a higher rating of being accurate. This was consistent with both the work of Forer and Snyder. However, it should be noted that this study was carried out on psychology students and so we must question the ecological validity of such a study and various other issues that are raised within the discussion
The Barnum effect is named such because of P.T. Barnum, who was known for the sound bite of "we've got something for everyone". Today when we talk of the Barnum effect we are referring to the observation of when individuals are given a personality description of themselves, they will give it a high accuracy rating if they believe the description has been personalized specifically for them. However, the description is vague and general enough to be applied to the vast majority of the population. This is what will be looked at in the study. The Barnum effect has been replicated by Forer (1948); he stated that individuals tend to accept generalised, vague personality descriptions as being true. Forer gave personality tests to his students and told them they were each going to be receiving a tailored personality analysis that had been based on their own test results and to rate their personality analysis between 1-5 (1 being poor and 5 excellent) on how close to their personality the analysis was. In actual fact each participant received exactly the same analysis. Forer found that the participants gave the personality test an average rating of 4.26. It was only after the participants had submitted their ratings that Forer informed them that each student had received the same personality test that Forer himself had composed from several horoscopes. This study is based on Snyder's (1974) experiment - 'Why horoscopes are true: The effects of specificity on acceptance of astrological interpretations'. Snyder divided his participants into 3 separate groups and gave each participant an identical personality description (similar to Forer). Group 1 were told that their personality analysis was 'generally true of people'. Group 2 were told that their personality analysis was created around the year and month of their birth. Group 3 were told that their personality analysis was created on their year, month and day of birth. Similar to Forer participants were then asked to rate the personality analysis on how successfully it had described their personalities (again, 1-5). Snyder found that the Barnum effect was achieved; this is to say that on the whole the personality descriptions were rated as being fairly correct. He also found that the lowest accuracy ratings were given in the group 1 (the group that were told they had been given a general personality description) and the highest accuracy rating was given in group 3 (year,month,day). However, were Snyder used 3 groups, this study consisted of only 2 groups and group 1 was similar to group 1 of Snyder's experiment and group 2 were informed that their personality description was based on their star sign. We must also remember that Snyder carried out his study on his own students, this may have had several implications for the study that will be discussed in greater depth in the discussion section. The rationale of the study was to see if the Barnum Effect will still be present in the society of today and to what...
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