The inspiration for this write-up is the Forer effect, which is the tendency for most people to identify with otherwise-general descriptions that are said to be about them. In other words – if someone says we have various personality traits, we are inclined to believe them if the person says the description is truly about us.
Over 60 years ago, this effect was first verified in an experiment by psychologist Bertram Forer with some students. He constructed a personality assessment from various horoscopes, and gave the same assessment individually to every student who took a personality test.
The assessment included sentences such as:
At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved.
Almost anyone can find some truth about themselves in sentences like that. And, in repeated experiments that tendency held true. And with social media and other online (or offline) interactions, there is perhaps the same tendency to follow the Forer effect.
If a social media tool analyzes our online traits and provides us with a judgement, we probably will think it must have truth in it. After all, it’s about us, based on our own input.
Even knowing that an interaction is non-human, such as interacting with a “bot” of some sort (or a voice response system), we still feel that the interaction is ours alone. But perhaps like a credit score run amok with other people’s information, we should not accept the assessment without making sure it’s not co-mingling our information with others.
To some extent, what you believe becomes your reality, and certainly our belief can get us past otherwise-overwhelming challenges.
If a new tool tells you that you are #1,230 of all tweeters (on Twitter) or maybe all TikTokers worldwide, you are inclined to want to believe it. But what if it were partly a randomly-generated number?
It will pay off to invest the time to learn more about what you believe, why you believe it, and your power to change yourself with your beliefs.