A true story from an E-skeptic subscriber, August 2003
Abstract -- My girlfriend has a large immediate family, all firm believers in astrology. At a party they rated horoscopes as less accurate than ones that (unknown to them) I had switched, which upset them and ruined my love life.
My girlfriend's family are very smart people who believe weird things. She has a large immediate family, all firm believers in multiple fringe concepts including astrology, ghosts, and psychic powers. At least half of them regularly visit an iridologist. If I express any skepticism on these matters I am quickly stifled.
On the last birthday of my girlfriend's mother, they held a huge party. As an experiment, I found an astrology website on the Internet, and printed out 30 copies of the full 12-sign horoscope. However, I changed 15 of the copies using Microsoft Word so that the readings no longer matched up with the Zodiac sign. At the party, I handed out the copies and had everyone rate how accurate their own readings were on a scale of 1 inaccurate to 5 accurate. Of course I did not tell them that 15 of them were reading false horoscopes. Several members figured I was up to something, but they went along anyway. In the end, the average score for the correct horoscopes was 3.7, and for the non-correct 3.9.
When it was all over, I told them the truth, and showed them that the doctored horoscopes actually got a slightly higher rating. The response was alarming. I was called a know-it-all by at least two people, was attacked within earshot by another, and was informed later by my girlfriend that her father was upset and required me to apologize. I found it ironic that they were upset with me for tricking them, and failed to see how it was me doing the tricking. Conclusion: skepticism may be very rewarding but it has ruined my love life.