Cold, Colder, Getting Colder

Notes from my journal after watching a little of TBN’s “Praise-A-Thon” (View online, if you dare.) before heading off to bed.

If you throw enough vagueness out, some of it is going to stick. Those who claim to speak with the dead rely on this. It’s called a cold reading. Most people are worried about love, health, and money. Stick to those topics and say that something — the ghost of a loved one, the Holy Ghost, or anything really — is providing you with insights about a given individual’s love life or heart condition, and there’ll surely be someone listening who’s now convinced you’re talking to him.

Cold reading involves asking questions then repeating back the answers in a way that makes a subject think the reader — a psychic or faith healer — got that information from some third party — God, Uncle Marvin, whomever.

James Randi provides the following example:

Reader: Did your husband linger on in the hospital, or did he pass quickly?

Subject: Oh, he died almost immediately!

Reader: Yes, because he’s saying to me, “I didn’t suffer. I was spared any pain.” (“Source)

Later, the subject will be convinced that the reader “knew” her husband passed quickly and without pain. Randi explains that readers’ success stems from their manipulation of your perception:

So, you see, it’s your perception of what’s actually being done, rather that the reality of the procedure, and your ignorance of other subtle clues and methods, that misleads you in your observations of these “psychics. (ibid)

Of course what on-air televangelists do is significantly different, because they’re just getting “the word” from “the Lord” as they’re preaching. They don’t get immediate feedback, so they stick to the ultra vague. “A heart condition has just been corrected,” a televangelist might say, and anyone with a diagnosed heart condition sitting at home will be convinced he’s talking about her. And all she has to do is show a little faith and that healing will come to fruition. And how is that faith shown?

Once the money is offered and the healing doesn’t come to pass, why not call back and ask for your money back? Simple — it’s your fault you weren’t healed because you really didn’t believe. Or your still living for the devil. Any number of clever explanations.

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