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Artifacts in reasoning
Hidden persuaders make astrology work

Geoffrey Dean and Ivan W Kelly

Abstract -- Unaided human reasoning is subject to artifacts due to systematic errors (we call them hidden persuaders) that can fully explain why an astrology based on experience seems to work. Astrologers proudly and repeatedly claim that astrology is unassailable because it is based on experience, but they are mistaken -- what they see as its strength is actually its weakness. Here more than 30 hidden persuaders such as the Barnum effect are explained. Each will convince clients that astrology works, and all are in common use in astrology books and consulting rooms. They vary in effectiveness depending on situation, but all lead to client satisfaction, and none require that astrology be true. But if clients are going to be satisfied, astrologers can hardly fail to believe in astrology. In this way a vicious circle of reinforcement is established whereby astrologers and their clients become more and more convinced astrology works. Examples from palmistry and phrenology are cited to show how hidden persuaders are not unique to astrology.

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