It is often said that all human life is contained within the tarot — from shady business prospects and secret admirers to unexpected adventures and marriage plans. But can a tarot spread really contain so much meaning, or is it pure chance?

Leaning toward the latter view, psychologist Paul Meehl observed that people tend to accept “meaningful” claims about themselves even when these are so general as to be applicable to almost anyone. Known as the “Barnum” or “Self Validation” effect, this phenomenon was tested by another psychologist, B.R. Forer, who gave a random astrological reading to several hundred students and asked them to rate its applicability to themselves on a scale of 1 to 5. The results tended to be very high — about 4.2 — indicating that almost all the students found the reading of relevance to their lives.

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