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How are Horoscopes still so popular?


Zodiac signs and horoscopes have skeptics all over the world but, surprisingly, they seem to remain widely popular among people. They don’t completely belong to natural science and also researches have illegitimated the accuracy of horoscopes. However, major newspapers and magazines have a separate section for them and many people are actively drawn towards these sections to look for the possibility of having a ‘good day’ through horoscopes. So, why are horoscopes still a thing despite its scientific inaccuracies and worldwide skepticism?

The answer to the question of how the alignment of stars and planet predict your future still remains unanswerable. But there is one psychological phenomenon that can answer why people are drawn towards them and why they seem weirdly accurate at times. The phenomenon is called Barnum effect named after showman P.T. Barnum and coined by psychologist Paul Meehl in 1956. This effect explains why people believe that a sufficiently vague and generic description is specific to them. Generic adjectives make you think they describe you without realizing these descriptions might be true to other people as well. This explains our human nature which tends to perceive vague yet optimistic description positively. We want to make sense of random happenings in our life and are willing to believe anything that gives us even the slightest comfort to make us feel good about the world around us. They comfortably distract us for having a bad day as we can easily blame our horoscopes instead of making practical sense of what went wrong. On a flip side, this might even diminish our accountability to our actions because we can justify our actions by saying ‘stars were not aligned’.

Nevertheless, everyone needs a small dose of positivity and guidance to start their day. According to a study from the University of Wisconsin, 70 percent of information in newspaper horoscopes is positive. We sometimes feel so disoriented and unproductive and all we need is a little motivation to keep us intact. So, it is better to have some sense of comfort in the random happenings of our life rather than not being able to make any sense of our everyday random life.

-Poonam Regmi