Military forecasts from astrologers. Why we listen to psychics, especially in times of war
We explain what makes people listen to the predictions and forecasts of astrologers, believe in horoscopes and be guided by prejudices
More than 21,800 material-forecasts of psychics, astrologers, tarot readers, molfars, numerologists and mediums published by the Ukrainian media for the period from February 24, 2022 to January 16, 2023. In total, they received more than 150 million views.
This is evidenced by the results of an analysis conducted by Semantrum, an online media monitoring and reputation management system commissioned by LIGA.Life.
The largest number of such materials was published in April 2022 - more than 5,800. For comparison, in November there were almost 1,200. Among the top media with such content are Obozrevatel, Zaxid.Media, Telegraf.com.ua, UNIAN and Znaj.ua. And the most mentioned "experts" are astrologer Vlad Ross, psychic Max Gordeev, and psychic and tarot reader Lyudmila Khomutovskaya.
According to an article by Detector.Media, Ukrainian media publish such content to increase views. But what is the readers' motive? What makes them click on an article/video/podcast with military predictions from an astrologer?
LIGA.Life talked about this with a psychologist in the method of cognitive-behavioral therapy Julia Dzhelyi.
Reality is quite complex, dynamic and largely unpredictable. The large number of events puts a strain on the brain. It's hard for him to process a huge array of information. Therefore, man is looking for something that can streamline and make reality easier.
But this is not all. Complicated reality causes an unpleasant emotional state. Recall how difficult it is to perform new tasks when information comes pouring in from all directions. There is an emotional distress that the brain is trying to cope with.
One way to simplify the perception of information is through selective attention, looking for connections between events and analogies to past experiences. These can be erroneous. But on the other hand, they help a person navigate the situation faster and prepare for action.
For example, you are late for work, you spilled your coffee and received remarks from the manager. This is a set of events, which in this situation are not related to each other. You were late because you left the house later. You spilled your coffee because you got caught up in a chair leg, and you were reprimanded because you did not complete your assignment on time.
However, you read about Mercury retrograde in the news. Instead of analyzing the cause of each event, you tie them together with one excuse: Mercury retrograde. The brain is satisfied, you calm down: "Phew, it wasn't me. It's all cosmos."
Searching for connections in random events that do not really exist is a manifestation of magical thinking. It is the basis of belief in astrological predictions, horoscopes, prejudices, divination, or the words of psychics.
- The belief that there is someone/something who, by his will, makes reality just so. For example, Mercury retrograde.
The belief that thoughts are related to events. For example, a person thought that his interlocutor was about to sneeze. And so he did. The result: "So, my thoughts affect what happens in reality!" Even though this is an isolated coincidence.
"Thoughts can affect moods and actions, but not the universe. For example, you don't get 2 hours of sleep at night and focus on the thought that you didn't get enough sleep. You may feel very sleepy, tired or have a headache from self-talk and believing those thoughts. But suddenly turning off the light when you're thinking about not getting enough sleep and wanting to go to bed is not a consequence of your thoughts. It is a consequence of the work of energy networks," Julia adds.
Believe in the words of people speaking confidently and convincingly. Try to compare scientific material and article with predictions from psychics. A scientist usually won't use the expression, "I know for sure." Instead, he will say, "Based on the results of the study, we can draw these conclusions. There is a connection and a probability. However, more research is needed to confirm." This is complicated, incomprehensible, and unconvincing to the brain. Instead, the psychic will say with certainty that the war will definitely end in April, which will make you believe it, if only for a second.
- Man relies only on available knowledge. That is, he sees in reality only what is on the surface. The result is that the brain misses other facts and points of view. This is how the error of confirmation arises - a person chooses only that reality which fits into his current understanding of the world. For example, your horoscope predicted a pleasant meeting. So you met your future partner. The confirmation error is, "It was because of the horoscope!" However, this is a limited view of reality.
"Take a broader look at the situation. Horoscopes are written and published every day. Most of them do not coincide with real events. Yet you paid attention to this prediction precisely because of the coincidence in life. That is, the brain ignored the mismatches. Julia adds.
Magical thinking is a normal stage in the development of the child's psyche at the age of 3 to 5. However, it is also present at some level in most adults. Evolutionarily, it helps to reduce the energy expenditure of the brain and emotional distress. However, its dominance in adults can be a sign of underdeveloped critical thinking or even some mental disorders.
Why you want to believe in predictions during war
Before the full-scale invasion, most of us had a more or less predictable reality. After February 24, it shattered. Everything going on around us is incomprehensible, unpredictable, scary. Anxiety intensifies: "How do we go on living?"
"Leaving the bubble of stable life is a 'good' prerequisite for the activation of magical thinking," explains the expert.
At this time, the islet cortex of the brain and the amygdala body are activated. The person experiences such emotions as fear, anger, etc. In parallel, the activity of the frontal cortex, which helps to change emotions and predict the consequences of actions, is muted.
The result is that due to the impact of emotions, a person is more inclined to believe emotional information. For example, that the war will be over in 2-3 weeks.
"Predictions from astrologers, psychics, and fortune tellers at this time play the role of illusory stabilizers of reality. Perceiving them, it is as if we are protecting our shattered structure of reality. In addition, in times of war, the future is uncertain and unknown, which is frightening. And the forecasts give an imaginary chance to foresee it.
Another potential reason is the effect of illusory truth. If the prediction "the war will be over by summer" is repeated dozens of times in various sources, even a person who sees evidence to the contrary and has developed critical thinking may believe it.
"A lie repeated many times becomes the truth. Propaganda is based on this effect. Russians have been told for years that there are Nazis in Ukraine. Because of the illusory truth effect, more and more people over time begin to believe this as an unqualified reality," adds Yulia.
If you believe in astrological predictions, expect disappointment
Believing in the predictions and forecasts of tarologists, psychics, and molfars is a type of protective behavior. It gives the illusion of control. However, in the long run, it reduces tolerance for uncertainty.
The result is increased anxiety and possible disappointment when predictions do not match reality.
"Believing in hyperoptimistic predictions can be detrimental to the individual - adding to emotional distress. Observational results have shown that in such cases, people are more likely to be disappointed and therefore have a greater risk of developing depression than people who critically assess the situation," explains the psychologist.
How it looks like in practice: you believed that the war will end in 2-3 weeks. Time has passed, the war continues. This greatly disappoints you and increases the risk of at least a lasting deterioration in your mood. In the long run, you will find it much harder and worse to endure the duration of hostilities. This reduces your psychological resilience (resilience) and your psyche's ability to come to terms with reality as it is.
How not to fall into the trap of magical thinking
Recognize that the brain can be wrong. It has cognitive distortions, an illusory truth effect, and looks for connections between events. The cognitive behavioral therapy method advises, "Don't believe everything your brain says. Ask yourself the question, "Do my thoughts really match the facts?"
Carefully verify the information your brain likes.
Understand that immediate gratification of desire is rare. A positive prediction from an astrologer is a short-term illusion of peace. Focus on specific actions that can make life better in the long run. It is up to you and your actions to determine the quality of life, even in war, not the predictions of psychics.
Don't engage yourself in defensive behavior. "Catch yourself" on what content you consume and what prejudices guide you. Spitting over your shoulder and knocking on wood will not make you luckier. It will only take time, energy and distract you from taking action that will actually help improve your reality.
And most importantly, learn the principles of critical thinking. It can be developed as a child as well as an adult. Professor Scott Lilienfeld highlights the following principles:
Extraordinary theories require amazing evidence. Question every high-profile claim and look for evidence of its truth. You can believe astrologers and fortune tellers. But what are their claims based on? Is it possible to test their words in practice?
A theory must be potentially disproven. An example of an irrefutable theory is the "Russell's Kettle" analogy. Suppose someone told you that there is a little teapot going around the Sun that you can never see. You can't refute that statement because it's impossible to verify. So you shouldn't believe statements that can't be verified.
Defining Competitive Hypotheses. Before jumping to conclusions based on the "expertise" of the tarot, consider and verify all the facts. There may be other opinions or even facts about the matter.
A correlation between events does not mean there is exactly a cause-and-effect relationship between them. If you were praised at work today, it does not mean that your horoscope was true. It was due to your doing the job correctly/quickly/qualitatively.
How to communicate with people who believe in psychics
Any communication should be based on a benevolent attitude and equality. Therefore, avoid aggression, shouting, disparaging the person in the style of "You are talking/seeing/listening to nonsense!"
An aggressive attack breeds an aggressive defense.
It doesn't help to build communication.
"Each person has the sense and right to think as they can based on their experiences and circumstances. A person who has critical thinking is not 'cooler' than one who has magical thinking that dominates. So build any conversation, even about a psychic, on respect, understanding and equality," Julia advises.
The main questions you can ask the other person are, "What evidence? Are there other reasons that explain what happened?" You can also clarify the context: "What happened before this? What events occurred?" The questions will help raise doubts-the basis for changing false beliefs.
Don't pressure your interlocutor. Changing beliefs takes time, willingness and effort on the part of the person. Don't expect the person to change an important perception of a complex reality in one conversation.
journalist at LIGA.Life