I came across this charming lady on my Facebook wall recently, Lillyanne Psychic medium, doing a live stream in which she offers readings to several of her facebook followers. Fans of Lillyanne's page were encouraged to pick one of the following four images and were given a reading based on the image selected.
This is a technique used by those in the physic industry, especially astrologers who as above have to have their reading apply to vast numbers of people, called Barnum statements. Otherwise known as the Forer effect, it acquired the Barnum statement moniker due to PT Barnum's quote: "We have something for everyone". Sound familiar?
Here's the Skeptic's Dictionary's definition of The Forer Effect with an example. bare this in mind when you watch Lillyann's video beneath it (skip to the readings at -8.40):
"The Barnum effect is the name given to a type of subjective validation in which a person finds personal meaning in statements that could apply to many people.
For example:You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. At times you have serious doubts whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing."
Reading 1: "Relationships are not as good as what maybe they should be... could be intimate relationship, family relationship or family... but it will be fine"
Brilliant hedging of bets here, and it's the broadening of the term relationship that means this could apply to almost every human being on the face of the Earth. Can any of us say we don't have at least one close relationship that couldn't be better? Also, the spirits have awful fucking grammar...
Reading 2: "Dreaming of loved ones. Are they visiting in dreams.... could be passed friends, family or pets..."
Again pretty common experience. More hedging by including pets...
Reading 3: "It's not been brilliant.... at a crossroads changes coming... go with the flow..."
Again could apply to any situations in the sitter's lives, who can say there isn't one aspect of their lives that isn't great and desires that to change.
Reading 4: "Taking a risk... risky business... could be a house move, or a business venture or anything..."
Lillyanne assures us that this simply can't be a coincidence that these readings fit so many. I agree it isn't a coincidence because by definition a coincidence is "a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances without apparent causal connection." and there's nothing remarkable here: she's simply described some very mundane facets of human experience!
I don't know about you, but all four of those readings are so vague that they could pretty much apply to me. I'm betting that most of you could fit those to your life too. So on that basis should we be blown away as Lillyanne's fans are? Not so much, because like you lot, I don't have anything riding on the reading. From reading her page it's clear to see many of Lillyanne's fan's clearly vulnerable people, quite a few post messages about being recently bereaved for example. For these people, these readings transcend the reading itself and provide assurance that life isn't a series of random events punctuated by loss and bereavement. In the "evidence" of psychic phenomena, they see the cruelty and randomness of nature given reason and meaning. Whether you agree with Lillyanne's activities or not at this point may well hinge on whether you believe the ends justify the means, that it's acceptable to mislead those receiving the readings, even if it is deception by omission, in order to provide false comfort.
The answer to that moral quandary may become somewhat clearer when you delve deeper into Lillyanne's page and discover it's a front for a psychic reading via text service, promoted on almost every post added by Lillyanne:
Lillyanne is part of Allstar Psychics Ltd, which is a pretty shitty network ran by Justin Toper, an astrologer for "Fate and Fortune"magazine, designed to milk every penny out of the vulnerable and grieving. Need further persuasion that Lillyane's page and public profile is little more than exercise in advertising this text service, check out the multiple endorsements, she posts on it:
PT Barnum had another quote attributed to him, though he likely never said it himself, which neatly sums up the endorsements and praise Lillyanne receives:
"There's a sucker born every minute"