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The Curious Science of Everyday Lives

By Richard Wiseman
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Quirkology by Richard Wiseman

Quirkology (2007) takes a uniquely scientific look at some common questions that are often dismissed as trivial: What kind of impact does astrology have on our lives? Is the number 13 really unlucky? Can a joke truly be harmful? And more!

Key idea 1 of 7

Astrology doesn’t work – or, at least, not as expected.

Do you check your daily horoscope? Are the predictions always mysteriously accurate? Well, that notwithstanding, science demonstrates that astrology actually does a poor job of predicting the future.

In one experiment, the author tried to determine if astrology could help make predictions about the stock market. He asked three individuals – an astrologer, a normal investment specialist and a four-year-old girl – to pick successful financial investments.

The results spoke for themselves: the astrologer was the least successful, losing 10.1 percent of the money he invested. The regular financial expert did only slightly better, losing 7.1 percent. And, surprisingly, the four-year-old girl, who invested at random, fared the best, losing only 4.6 percent.

Furthermore, when the participants were asked to make a second round of investments, the child made a profit of 5.8 percent, while the astrologer remained at a loss of 6.2 percent.

You may be thinking: Okay, so astrology can’t predict events, but it can still tell us about who we are, right?

Actually, the stars don’t affect us. What changes our behavior is our belief in what astrology says.

For example, renowned psychologist Hans Eysenck performed a test on over 1,000 students to determine who were extroverts and who were introverts. It turned out that students with an “extrovert” astrological sign (such as Aries and Leo) scored as extroverts on the test. The same held true for students who were born under “introvert” signs, like Virgo and Scorpio.

But Eysenck suspected that the students’ knowledge of what their sign supposedly means had an influence on their answers. So he performed another test, this time with children, and the results showed that there was no relationship between personality and astrological sign.

As we can see, astrological predictions are often wrong, and even when they aren’t, this is because we tend to unconsciously change our behavior in order to make them seem right.

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