April 15, 2015 by Melissa Ray
Yesterday I saw this description printed on the wall of the foyer in Singapore Art Museum and thought wow, it could have been written about me. Then I wondered if that was the aim of the piece. Did the artist intend to use generic statements that any viewer could relate to?
Close enough. The piece is actually based on personality tests used in psychological experiments conducted by Bertram R. Forer in 1948, in which people were asked to rate the accuracy of statements when applied to their own personalities. The results revealed that people tend to read general statements and interpret them as being accurate of themselves—a phenomenon labelled “the Forer effect”. The effect is said to partially explain the widespread acceptance of pseudosciences such as astrology and fortune telling.
I’m not a person who believes in horoscopes or fortune telling, but I was convinced the statements described me exactly. How about you?