I recently came across a particularly interesting technique, which although can veer into the slightly unethical, clearly illustrates how a writer can use insights into human nature to improve their literature and connect with their audience.
Have you ever heard of the Barnum-Forer effect? Essentially, in the middle of the 20th century, several psychologists were trying to delve into the core characteristics individuals tended to attribute to themselves. They conducted a personality test where students were given a “personality test” and later were given the results of the test based on how they answered. There was a catch, though; everyone was given the exact same result.
Some of the students that participated in the study were so touched by the results, they were moved to tears!
Even more interesting was the fact that the personality traits they fabricated were based on horoscopes, graphology, and other controversial forms of parapsychology. Some of the common traits they included in their “results”, which we will be taking a deeper dive into were:
- You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
- You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
- While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
- At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
- Security is one of your major goals in life.
What exactly does that mean? Are human beings fundamentally the same? Do we all perceive a certain set of values and try to work towards them?