Cold reading is one of the oldest tricks that so-called psychics, Mentalist and mind readers use. It is a rather basic skill that works by carefully choosing your words and, most importantly, paying attention to the subject’s responses. Like any other skill, it takes a lot of practice, and there are a lot of cold reading techniques out there. If you will ever find yourself wanting to become a mentalist, cold reading is a must have. Here are 8 awesome cold reading techniques that we think might interest you:
This cold reading technique is one of the first steps of cold reading, and is referred to as ‘shotgunning’. The term is based upon the way that shotguns work. They do not fire a single projectile, but a cluster of pellets, some of which are guaranteed to hit the target. That’s exactly how this technique works. Shotgunning is based on using a lot of general information, while shotgun statements are rather vague and general. They are most useful in front of a big audience. For example, a Psychic might say ‘I see a blackened heart and a father figure in your past’. In the case of a numerous audience, although the statement is vague, someone is guaranteed to feel a very personal connection. The explanation is very simple: heart disease causes the greatest number of deaths worldwide, while a father figure can be anyone, from grandfather to even an older brother.
If you have never heard of subjective validation, this is the most appropriate time. Subjective validation stands at the very base of mentalism, being a very powerful cold reading technique. We all know people who take horoscopes way too seriously. Horoscopes are based on the principle of subjective validation. That means that a person is likely to find a personal meaning or significance in some rather general and vague statements that apply to the vast majority of people. These are called Barnum statements, being named after the American showman, P.T. Barnum. While they do, indeed, seem to be very personal statements, they apply to a great number of people. Here are a few examples:
- You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage.
- While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them
- You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself.
There’s a very high probability that you have found yourself in these. While that is true, always remember that they also apply to almost everyone else. That being said, remember what you read about cold reading techniques next time you see a fortune teller or a psychic.
Know your audience
As a Mind Reader, you have to choose your subjects carefully, as there are many skeptics who will be more than happy to prove you wrong. What some mentalists do is have their audiences go through a short
interview prior to the show. Some even hire people to strike a conversation with members of the audience before the show. This is a great way to learn about the audience and make sure that your cold reading will go smoothly. Another great thing to do is to not choose your subjects randomly, but have them volunteer. People who volunteer to be part of a cold reading already want their mind to be read, so they will believe you can do it.
Body language as a Cold reading Technique
Everyone knows that everyone lies. We lie to get out of trouble or to protect someone or something. While words can be deceptive, the human body is not such a good liar. From handshakes and posture to breathing and eye movement, the body can show a person’s true feelings. A trained mentalists can easily pick up on the signals that a subject’s body is sending. For example, if during a conversation, a person is leaning towards you, it means they are comfortable. Obviously, if they move or lean away, they are not comfortable. Crossed limbs are also a signal of stress, indifference or impatience.
‘The eyes are the mirror of the soul’ may be a cheesy phrase, but it is also true. While a person might fake a smile to seem interested or happy, their eyes might tell a completely different story. A genuine smile can be detected in the eyes, as it causes a few wrinkles next to the eyes. As all cold reading techniques, learning body language takes a lot of practice. Mentalists know that they have to pay attention to multiple factors during a cold reading. Taken separately, these behavioral cues can mislead. For example, crossed arms suggest that a person is impatient or frustrated. On the other hand, the person may just be physically cold.
As a mentalist, you must learn to develop a great observation skill. If you plan to randomly choose a random subject from the audience, this skill will come in handy before that. As we said earlier, many mentalists gather information about their audiences prior to the show. That can be done through interviews or planted accomplices. If that is not the case, a very useful cold reading technique is ‘the art of deduction’. This is sometimes referred to as the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ technique. It requires a well-trained eye and attention to detail. During a conversation, a mentalist can gather information by simply looking at the subject. Putting body language aside, there are other important sources of information. For example, an engagement ring indicates impending marriage. If a person is wearing many accessories, the mentalist could say that the person cares a lot about their appearance. That is, of course, a Barnum statement. The mentalist can also deduct a person’s level of education, by paying attention to their vocabulary. A perfect environment for using this cold reading technique is a subject’s house. A mentalist, if not anyone, can learn a lot from a person’s house. Photographs, books, movies or even the general state of the place can say a lot about a person.
Fishing For Clues/Information
Another awesome cold reading technique is the one known as ‘fishing’. This technique is a bit similar to shotgunning. While shotgunning is aimed at larger audiences, fishing revolves around reading a single subject. To properly use this technique, the mentalist must first observe the subject, then make a guess. For example, the subject’s age is a helpful factor. Let’s say the subject is about 30 or 40
years old. Using that information, the mentalist may, for example, ask about an elderly relative that has died. The victim will, of course, give a response. Usually, the subject will give more information than necessary. Once the subject answers, the mentalist will respond as if he knew it all along. For example, let’s say the subject’s father died of heart disease. The mentalist can say that he is sensing that the father is pointing to his chest, throat. Then, he’d ask the subject if their father had any problems with that general area. If they say he died of heart disease, the mentalist will say ‘Yes, he is pointing at his heart.’ This way, the mentalist will seem to have already known.
While it may be an odd sounding one, pigeon-holing is one of the best cold reading techniques. Pigeon-holing is the process of stereotyping a subject into a definite category of persons. By doing this, mentalists can narrow down the guesses that they make about the subject. For this field, these categories are based on gender and age. Let’s say, for example, that the subject is a female teenager. The mentalist may deduct, just by this, that she is having trouble fitting in, which is usual for this age. Also, a good starting point for fishing is the sentimental side, romantic relationships. The subject may also feel like she is misunderstood by many, in this particular case.
Of course, besides age and gender, there are many more categories and stereotypes that are useful. Such are race, weight or accents. While it may seem offensive for some, pigeon-holing is a very useful cold reading technique.
Another great cold reading technique stands in the mastering of patter. Mentalists must choose their words carefully when they perform. First of all, a Mind reader has to speak on a friendly, but confident tone. This helps ease the subjects into the reading, as they will feel a lot more comfortable. At the same time, the mentalist must make the subject understand who is in charge. That is not all; a major factor in a successful reading is the ambiguity of some words. For example, while shotgunning, a Mind reader could say ‘Someone in here knows Mike.’ In this case, the whole trick stands behind the ambiguity of ‘here’. Here may mean in the audience or the spirit world. Therefore, someone in the audience may say that they have known a Mike who has recently passed away. If that’s not the case, the mentalist can have everyone named Mike stand up, pick one, then fish for clues. Another good example is the word ‘will’. It may refer to someone called Will, or to a legal document. This cold reading technique is mainly based on how the subjects interpret a certain word. The mentalist observes how the client interprets that word and adapts, making the reading go smoothly.