Cold Reading (Psychic Powers Not Necessary)

Cold reading essentially occurs during conversation with another person. It is where one person uses a number of very subtle techniques to find out covertly information about the other person. Cold reading and the extraction of information is normally done in a very elusive way. This is to ensure that the person being subjected to it, is rarely aware that they have given out a wealth of information about themselves.

Cold reading is often cited as a technique used by fake mediums and psychics to help them appear to be genuine. It can also help give the impression that they (fake psychics etc.) have more knowledge than they actually do, regarding a living person, a deceased or a situation. Another example of the use of cold reading is during the police interrogation process. This is where an interrogator may appear to know more about the person being interrogated and the crime than they actually do. Under these circumstances a confession is possibly much more easily facilitated.

Derren Brown a well known UK magician decided to investigate the whole area of "psychics" in one of his investigative documentaries for Channel Four (a UK terrestrial TV channel). In his documentary he chose to look at the claims of a UK psychic called Joe Power. During the hour long documentary the question was raised as to whether cold reading techniques were being used. Derren Brown who is a renowned UK magician and well known for his 'Trick of the Mind' TV series proved that cold reading could work very well on a subject. Indeed using only cold reading techniques, he made himself appear to have quite extraordinary insights and psychic powers during one particular reading in the programme. However he did disclose afterwords to his subject, that whatever information he provided to them was purely down to cold reading. What had taken place was neither a communicator with the spirit world or a demonstration of psychic ability. The information that was provided to the subject about herself was however impressive to her and appeared to be highly accurate.

The question now arises, that if someone wanted to learn about cold reading and the techniques involved, then where might they begin to look? Ian Rowland in his book "The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading" has put together a comprehensive, insightful and easy to read guide to the subject. There is also a section on the Ian Rowland website where the book is endorsed not only by Derren Brown who wrote the following:

"The definitive work, and long overdue. Has many applications to mind magic, and any interactive performance."

But also the renowned James Randi who also wrote the following:

"Ian has put a lot of work and inspiration into the book. I think it will become the standard reference volume." is a large and growing a to z of paranormal, supernatural and unusual phenomena which does cover topics about ghosts and mediums. For this reason it was felt appropriate to examine Ian Rowlands book in the context of "psychics" and "mediums" and conduct a review. Following is that review:

The book by Ian Rowland is really well written and divided into six main sections plus an appendix. There is also an online supplement should anything in the book change and online contributions are welcomed. Of particular note is the way in which each technique is given a label or a name. For example: "The Fuzzy Fact", "The Good Chance Guess", "The Stat Fact" and "The Push Statement", that is to name only a few. Each technique as well as being suitably labelled is shown also how it works. To illustrate this the "Fuzzy Fact" is quoted as follows:

"A Fuzzy Fact is an apparently factual statement which is formulated so that (a) it is quite likely to be accepted (b) it leaves plenty of scope to be developed into something more specific."

To clarify exactly how this might happen within the context of cold reading and in a sitting with a "psychic/medium" a dialogue is used in the book so that the reader can easily understand the application.

Armed with all of the techniques in the book it is easy to see how "psychics" may appear to have knowledge that simply amazes their clients. It is well documented that generally after a meeting with a "psychic"many clients are quoted as saying things like "how on earth did he/she know that about me or my dead relative?" They often remark also on the apparent accuracy of the information delivered to them as well. After reading Ian Rowland's book, the how part of how they "know" all of this information becomes clear. But as the author himself admits the intention of the book is not to prove whether or not psychics are genuine or not, rather as he states:

"I cannot prove that psychics use cold reading, but I can give you all the information you need to decide for yourself."

This in fact very true, having examined the claims made by a number of "psychics" over the years, some of the information they provided; although insightful and very accurate could have been no more than (to quote the book), "A Lucky Guess", "A Polyanna Pearl" or a "Russian Doll".

In a very tongue in cheek manner the author even jokingly suggests that the emergence of a new pass time called "psychic baiting" as he refers to it. He doesn't for one moment advocate perusing this, however it is very interesting to watch a "psychic" in action forearmed with all of the techniques contained in the book.

This is especially true of the section devoted to explaining how "psychics" can always turn incorrect statements to their advantage and this is covered in some detail in the "Win Win Game" section. However the reader is also shown how they may block fake psychics from using the techniques contained within and a whole section is devoted to this.

For those who wish to be enlightened about the world of "psychics" and "mediums" and how some of them may or may not operate, then this book is most definitely a must! However for those who wish to believe that the dead really can contact the living via a psychic or medium, then perhaps ignorance is bliss even if it does somewhat lighten the wallet.

To find out more about this fascinating subject we highly recommend: "The Full Facts book of Cold Reading" by Ian Rowland, ISBN: 9780 955847608 or visit his website at:

5 stars out of 5 stars


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