The Barnum or Forer effect is the tendency for people to judge that general, universally valid statements about personality are actually specific descriptions of their own personalities.
A “universally valid” statement is one that is true of everyone or, nearly everyone. It is not known why people tend to make such misjudgements, but the effect has been experimentally reproduced.
‘Barnum Statements’ are generalised phrases which seem personal and hence make use of the Forer Effect.
“I sense that you are sometimes insecure, especially with people you don’t know very well.”
“You have a box of old unsorted photographs in your house.”
“You had an accident when you were a child involving water.”
“You’re having problems with a friend or relative.”
Image credit: Jonathan Gleich