Cold Reading Explained


The basis of cold reading is knowledge of the goals of the people who come to a reader. Life is uncertain. Love, whether maternal or romantic love, often goes wrong. Many people crave revenge and are not aware of it. Everyone alive, it seems, is lonely.

A cold reader meets needs, and is well compensated for it, by telling people what they need to hear. Their lover will return to them, or meet a bad end. Their husband awaits them in a gauzy version of heaven. Their enemies are to be pitied, because they are certainly in for trouble.

A primary tool of the cold reader is hesitation

Given a chance, a client who is eager to believe will fill in the blanks. This is why a cold reader will speak of, “a man with soft brown eyes” or “somehow connected to the letter B.” rather than naming George Johnson. Why couldn’t the spirits name George, it they know so much? Why do they hint around, and then become more informative as the interview progresses? The reason is that the interview is providing the information.

Research – Another useful tool

Possibly the best method is to use a roper, an accomplice who finds clients and promotes the reader. The roper passes on information to the reader. A previous client can also impress the current subject with the reader’s abilities so that he or she need not brag. Either helper can sometimes help the reader with “hot reading“, that is, research on the client.

The clients want to believe, or they wouldn’t come to a reader. Even giggling teen-aged girls are looking for a supernatural thrill. Therefore, a reader may explain that while he does receive messages of a sort, he himself often does not know what the messages mean. The idea is to encourage the lame, the client, to fill in the blanks and supply details in response to the general information fed him.

So a reader will use general remarks, the way an astrology column does, and watch carefully for a response. (Scientists call the way people take general remarks for personal insights the Barnum effect.) These remarks should be flattering overall, and thoroughly ambiguous: “Your heart was born too generous; yet you have learned you must take care of yourself first.”

It’s not Politically Correct, but it’s true that people can be typed!

Young women are often interested in men, sometimes in a rival or a parent’s health. Men under about forty are all interested in money, every one of them. After forty it’s love that men care about, or maybe money, maybe specifically their parent’s money. (A reader, of course, is not interested in money.) Women of forty or more care about travel, their children, their family. Someone a child or grandchild is involved with. A reader may warn the client about such a person, on the theory that all outsiders are considered potentially dangerous by the older members of a family.

Trouble in the family is a good guess. Look to your health is a good bet. Heart disease and cancer are the commonest ways to die. Health trouble often starts in the chest or trunk. These are guesses that may be sketched out by a reader, and that may score.

Essentially, cold readers guess, based on the client’s appearance and demeanor. Changes in their posture, tone, skin color, and pupil size all will tell a reader when they have hit on something. Clothing, style, and hygiene all give readers clues about the kinds of guesses they should be making. Accent and diction inform about a person’s origins. My grandmother believed you could judge a person with great accuracy purely by looking at their fingernails and teeth.

When the reader makes suggestions clients will pick up on one or another of them. If the reader misses he just passes on to the next guess. He will see when he has hit a nerve and can expand upon an area. He does not have to be anything resembling accurate. He only has to hit a fertile area once and the person he is reading will quickly forget all his mistakes.

A local practitioner once had clients believing that his wife had received transplant surgery without any anti-rejection drugs. In fact, he had given his wife the needed organ. A miracle really. This spouse conveniently lived elsewhere, but her existence made the practitioner a compassionate and medically skillful person who was in constant need of money for her treatment. The fact that her transplant used no anti-rejection drugs was a huge plus for the drug-free cures the man was selling, but he eventually had to “kill her off” to marry a client. Sad.

Readers Often Use Props

These add authenticity, and the means to stall. While the reader thinks up his next line, he busies himself dealing the cards or peering into a crystal. Palm readers gather physical clues, not from lines in the hand, but from texture, tan, jewelry, and strength or weakness in the client’s body. This sort of thing can add a sense of mystery, and also add structure to the work. It’s acceptable to be a bit scary or dark, depending on the client; this gives some a sense of sin they find thrilling.

Readers want to work in dimness if possible, and also in the evening if they have a choice. Such conditions may make the subject less alert and aware.

Readers must evaluate the subject constantly. They must remember the cues he or she responds to and remember what type of subject they are working.

cold reading

They ask questions rather than making flat statements. This encourages the subject to fill in the blanks. The subject fascinates the client, because it is himself. He’s trying to figure out what it all means, and will give the reader any help he can.

The reader need only listen, and support the client’s choices. He must let her talk. She may be here out of loneliness, or because she thinks no one listens to her.

Often a reader will play it over the top. People expect this of a reader. If a reader is overdramatic and childlike then they can feel that they are wise and mature in understanding, interpreting and making use of what he innocently says.

In reality, a reader simply figures out what the clients are after. He tells them what they want to hear. What will move the client most is the sense that the reader really, really knows his heart.

A cold reader often encounters eager clients who want to believe. The reader makes leading remarks conceived from generalizations about the client (or knowledge about the client if he or she can get it). The reader then elaborates upon these guesses, based on the client’s responses to the hits and misses of the interview. Through this process, the reader impresses the client with his intimate knowledge, and tells the client what he knows she wants to hear.

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