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Why Are Millennials Turning to Astrology?


Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition, which won the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. He is a fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

A strology, the oldest and most popular theory of human per-sonality, doesn’t work. I played role in proving astrology doesn’t when a student, an astrology enthusiast, came to me and said she wanted to conduct a test of astrology for her honors thesis research. To her credit, she was willing to let the chips fall where they may. With a little guidance, she designed a double-blind test in which college students were presented with their actual horoscope— based on a natal chart produced by a highly rated commercial astrology software program—and a bogus horoscope randomly selected from those produced for the other students in the study. Each participant had a 50/50 chance of picking their own horoscope, and that’s about as well as they did. In fact, the students only scored a 46 per-cent accuracy rate, indicating that there was a slight—though not statistically significant—tendency for the students to pick the bogus astrology horoscope instead of their own.

To eliminate the possibility that the college students were just clueless about their personalities, my student also had each participant fill out a well-researched paper-and-pencil personality test. Presented with a similar choice— their own personality scale profile matched with some other random per-son’s profile—the students did much better. This time, there was a 79 per-cent correct identification rate, which was far above what would be expected by chance. Thus, astrology didn’t work, but a widely used personality test did. My student’s honors thesis results were consistent with a long line of similar tests showing that astrology does not provide an accurate description of per-sonality, and she went on to publish the study in the Journal of General Psychology (Wyman and Vyse 2008).

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