The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

New Years Psychic Prediction Failures: 2010 Year in Review

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 1, 2011

Among the New Year traditions that seem to get bantered about these days are psychic predictions for the upcoming year.  Of course, psychics are a bunch of hooey – ever seen a newspaper headline titled “Psychic Wins Lottery, Gives Money to Starving Kids!”?  You never will, because psychic & other related paranormal phenomena just don’t work, period.

However, there are all too many faithful followers of psychic woo who want to believe that it works.  One of the primary ways in which believers fool themselves is to cherry-pick the predictions & results; in skeptic-speak, we call this “counting the hits and ignoring the misses”.  And there are a LOT more misses than hits, folks.  In addition, many of these psychics tend to make very vague & ambiguous predictions which can be twisted and interpreted in a number of ways.  This creative interpretation of misses or vague predictions after-the-fact as hits is well documented in the history of psychic woo.

As a way of illustrating this, let us take some time to examine a series of predictions made one year ago by a number of famous psychics, shall we?

What the Psychics Are Predicting for 2010

By , About.com Guide

THESE ARE THE people who are supposed to be able to tell us the future, right? Okay, so here are 2010 predictions from psychics, astrologers and mentalists from around the U.S. and around the world about the economy, politics, Hollywood – and a few very weird things.

Christopher St John, Psychic

  • Another crash in the stock market… maybe a little bit later in the year.
  • Increased recording and reporting of sightings of UFOs will place pressure on world governments to admit “the truth” of extra-terrestrial life. …

Another stock market crash?  Hmm, let’s see how the ol’ market did this year.  According to Yahoo News Finance, it seems like it was a pretty damn good year for the market, specifically the Dow Jones:

Of course, if Mr. St. John wants to call the dip in the market from May to July (which amounted to ~1000 points over the course of two months) a “crash”, I suppose he could do that.  But given what the markets went through back in 2008, I think this two-month-long dip could hardly be called a “crash”.  I’m going to call this one a miss.

As for the supposed “pressure” put on world governments to release “the truth” of ET-life, I don’t seem to recall any major headlines on that front.  In fact, a brief search of Google News using the terms “extra terrestrial life ufo governments” revealed pretty much nothing; well, nothing except for this headline: ‘Cosmic masters’ call for Govt investigation into UFOs

I suppose this is marginally interesting, but the prediction was that world governments (note the plural there) would have these UFO files released and facing pressure.  As it is, it seems that this has only occurred in New Zealand, not worldwide as predicted.  Not to mention, in the last few years we have seen the release of a number of formerly secret files on supposed UFO sightings by a number of governments, so this sort of “prediction” comes as no big revelation.  If this is a psychic hit, it is a really vague & lukewarm one.

Who is our next psychic?

Terry and Linda Jamison, The Psychic Twins

  • The economy will recover slowly, and very slowly.
  • There will be a hurricane in the Gulf Coast, but not in the magnitude of Hurricane Katrina.
  • There will be several terrorist attacks in the US and also in other countries later this year, starting in March.

Wow… what did I mention about psychic predictions being vague?  Anyone could have predicted that the economy would slowly recover; in fact, pretty much everyone did, except for Mr. St. John (our first psychic) who predicted a “crash” in the stock market which would seem to be at odds with the prediction by the Psychic Twins.  Then there’s the prediction of, wait for it, a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico!  But doesn’t a hurricane hit the Gulf of Mexico pretty much every year?  That’s like predicting: “somewhere in the tropics it will rain this year.”

[Update: Someone from the JREF Forum notified me that in 2010 there wasn't a single hurricane that actually hit the Gulf Coast.  While this may be strictly true, I do think there was at least one which entered the Gulf of Mexico.  Depending upon how you look at it, I suppose this one could be a miss.]

And the last prediction tries to cleverly have it both ways: note how they state that there will be several terrorist attacks in both the U.S. and in other countries.  This statement gives the appearance of specificity (because it mentions the U.S. in particular) but then leaves the psychic an “out” by adding on “and in other countries” – again, it is no big stretch of the imagination to predict that somewhere in the whole world in the course of a full year there will be some kind of terrorist attack.

[Update: The same person from the JREF Forum also notified me that there was one terrorist attack on U.S. soil in 2010, but since the prediction was for "several" attacks, this one is also a miss.]

These “predictions” are so obviously broad & lame that they don’t even count, in my opinion; but this kind of psychic double-speak is standard operating procedure for many psychics.

Next!

Judy Hevenly, Los Angeles-based Psychic

  • Golden Globes could see Jeff Bridges for Best Actor; Sandra Bullock, Best Actress.
  • Hospitalization for Queen Elizabeth, with Prince William ready to step into her role.
  • The ghost of the late Michael Jackson will hover over 2010 music awards.
  • A cruise ship taken hostage at sea, but quick action by the coast guard keeps all passengers safe.
  • Possibility of appointment of a new Pope in Rome, heralding major changes in the Catholic Church.

Okay, now the Golden Globes predictions are somewhat specific, though Ms. Hevenly did try to give herself an out by inserting the qualifying “could” into the statement.  Regardless, both Jeff Bridges and Sandra Bullock won awards as predicted; however, by the time these predictions were made, it was already known what the most critically acclaimed movies were for 2009, so it is no big stretch to make such an “accurate” psychic prediction.  I’ll call this a lukewarm hit, but one so obvious that anyone who bothered to pay attention to movie critics could have also made it.

Queen Elizabeth gets hospitalized?  Well, this one was a big fat miss, plain and simple, though it could have been considered a hit if the most probably result – that an 84 year-old woman might get seriously ill – had come to pass.  Again, why would anyone need a crystal ball to make so obvious a prediction?  Regardless, it was dead wrong.

Michael Jackson’s ghost at the 2010 music awards?  Wrong.

Cruise ship taken hostage at sea?  An extensive Internet search revealed that while there have been numerous cases of piracy at sea this year, there were not any such cases of piracy against a cruise ship.  Miss.

The possibility of a New Pope?  Notice the vagueness behind the word “possibility” – it is always possible for a New Pope to come into power, folks.  This “prediction” is essentially a non-prediction.

Where’s our next psychic guru?

Hayek, Lebanese Psychic

  • President Obama’s decision to go to Afghanistan will backfire on him and the Democratic Party.
  • Julio Iglesias’ name will be in the spotlight once again.

Umm… yeah.  What was that I said about being vague & ambiguous?  Nothing to see here, folks.  Moving on…

Julianna Suranyi, Australian Psychic

  • Tiger Woods’ list of affairs won’t be fatal to his marriage – yet.
  • Don’t expect to hear wedding bells for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, and the couple won’t be separating either.
  • Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon will be nominated for Oscars.

Oops!  Looks like the first prediction is a big miss, considering as how Tiger Woods and his ex-wife, Elin Nordegren, finalized their divorce in August of 2010.  As for Brad Pitt & Angelina Jolie, this prediction could be considered a hit, but given the news that they apparently had an unofficial wedding for their family just days ago (when it was still 2010), it looks as if it’s a potential miss as well.  The prediction about Morgan Freeman & Matt Damon being nominated for the Oscars was a hit, I suppose, but again it is a lukewarm one for the same reasons mentioned concerning Judy Hevenly’s Golden Globe predictions: simply watching the movie critic buzz about two stellar actors is all that is needed to make this prediction – no psychic powers required.  Color me unimpressed.

Continuing…

Psychic Source

  • Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie will split up by spring.
  • Tiger Woods will remain golf-free for a year in the wake of his recent sex scandal.
  • Oprah Winfrey will enter the political arena.

Nope.  All three predictions were flat wrong.  That’s three more misses.

Sidney Friedman, Mentalist

  • In terms of the stock market, a major correction in Dow Jones prices will occur.
  • President Obama’s approval ratings will rise by end of summer in 2010.
  • Tiger Woods, in spite of his announced leave of absence, will return to the golf circuit and though he fails in smaller tournaments, he will win another major this year or the following spring.
  • The Hurt Locker will score an Oscar for Best Picture.

Concerning the first prediction, that of the stock market “correction”, one would first have to understand just what is meant by a correction to know where to go with this one.  Such fuzzy terminology allows the psychic maximum leeway in interpreting their results as successful hits after-the-fact.  As far as President Obama’s approval ratings, a quick look at Gallup shows that his approval numbers varied little over the course of 2010 – so that one’s a miss.  Tiger Woods did return to playing professional golf, but his 2010 season was pretty lackluster, and he certainly didn’t win any major tournaments – so this one’s a miss as well.  The prediction about The Hurt Locker was a hit, but – again – bear in mind that one can pretty easily read the tea-leaves and make a decent prediction if all you do is pay attention to the movie critics.  So this last one is, as before, a rather lukewarm hit.

Next is one of my “favorite” psychic scumbags…

Sylvia Brown, Psychic

  • We’ll develop strong resolve and resources to address [many social] problems and come up with some good solutions.
  • A great rise in skin cancer in children.
  • I predict we can truly say “goodbye” to the common cold.

Ms. Browne’s first prediction is so overly vague as to be laughable, so I won’t waste any more time on that one.  Her second prediction about skin cancer rates in children seems to simply be piggy-backing on a previously reported story (as in, reported 5 years earlier) concerning the very same subject – sorry, but these are supposed to be predictions, duh!  Perhaps Ms. Browne was hoping everyone had forgotten about the earlier reports; guess she forgot about Google.

As for saying “goodbye” to the common cold, plenty of sick people can assure you that this particular prediction is a definite miss.

Perhaps the next psychic will have better luck?

Fatima, St. Paul Psychic

  • More health issues are on the way, especially concerning viruses stemming in foreign countries.
  • There will be more wars. (Not sure where, not sure when – but definitely more.)
  • The economy will be situated and things will be okay — we’ll all get by.
  • This is not the beginning of the end of the world, but we can expect 2010 to be more hectic than the past few years.

Okay, just what the hell is meant by “more health issues”?  Again, ambiguity is the psychic’s friend in cases like these, as it allows for the most available wiggle-room.  And predicting that “there will be more wars” is about as difficult as predicting that “tomorrow the sun will rise & set” – no kidding there will be more wars in the future.  Neither of these is any kind of candidate for a decent prediction.

As for the prediction about the economy: haven’t we been here before when the Psychic Twins made a similar vague prediction (which was also at odds with Mr. St. John’s doom-and-gloom prediction)?  Wow, can’t these folks come up with anything more solid than this?  Concerning the last prediction, I’m not even sure what is being predicted because it is so ambiguous.

I don’t know how much more of this I can stand…

Nikki, Psychic to the Stars

  • Trouble on the moon’s surface and atmosphere.
  • The Lost City of Atlantis will be found.
  • A worldwide power blackout.
  • Giant bats will attack a city in South America.
  • Two cruise ships will collide in the Caribbean.
  • A famous Las Vegas casino hotel will burn to the ground.

“Trouble on the moon’s surface” – what does this even mean?  Get back to me when you find out.  And, Ms. Nikki, I have a news flash for you: the moon doesn’t have an atmosphere! With those amazing psychic powers, it is pretty astonishing that Nikki couldn’t have uncovered this obvious fact readily available to any literate person who bothers to read a science text.  Wow…

And the other five predictions are massively bad misses.  Whoops.

Summary

It ends up there’s a page two to the original About.com article, but I simply don’t feel like exposing any more of my neurons to this stupidity.  Feel free to take a look for yourself, but I don’t expect anything more than the numerous misses, occasional vague & lukewarm hit, and blatantly ambiguous & meaningless “predictions” that we’ve already exposed.  And what has been uncovered in this analysis?  Here’s a quick summary…

Total Number of Predictions: 35

# of “Hot” Hits: 0

# of “Lukewarm” Hits: 4

# of Misses: 16

# of Overly Vague & Ambiguous Non-Predictions: 15

So that means that out of 35 predictions, only 4 could even have been considered hits.  And those hits were decidedly lukewarm: 3 of them had to do with awards given to popular Hollywood actors & movies, which is particularly unimpressive given the amount of buzz from other, more reputable sources in the run-up to such award shows.  That’s a “lukewarm hit” success rate of about 11.4% – not very impressive, folks.

And there were no – that is, zero – hot hits which were dead-on accurate without the benefit of any prior information.  Zero.

So, in conclusion, psychics and their predictions are a bunch of crap.  To finish up this post, I will make one prediction which never fails to come true: I predict that the gullible & credulous will continue to be bilked by these psychic charlatans, and that the vast majority of psychic predictions for this year will have the same, useless track record as they did last year.

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7 Responses to “New Years Psychic Prediction Failures: 2010 Year in Review”

  1. DataJack said

    As usual, spot on. thanks for this, we need people like you exposing this nonsense.

  2. [...] Poorly. As usual. See a rundown here. [...]

  3. Thank you for taking time to share this information with everyone.

  4. holly said

    Well you are definately entitled to your opinion. However I believe you are being purely one-sided. Did you actually research “every single” prediction or only the ones that didnt come true? Yes, those ones you can definately de-bunk I agree completely but its not impressive enough to make me believe that psychic abilities are not real at all. We all, as individuals, are always entitled to our own opinions and beliefs and I would never try to persuade another person to change either one. You dont believe in psychics. Thats fine. I, on the other hand, do. Maybe not all of them because I also agree that alot of people love to pretend and make people believe them or are just out to rip others off. Thats sad. It gives real people with real abilities a bad rep. I, personally, believe Sylvia Browne is a wonderful decent human being who (if you take the time to actually research her success rate and all those shes really helped) you would or may understand why so many people have faith in her. Ty :)

  5. DataJack said

    Holly, do not confuse belief with reality. No matter how much you “believe” in psychics, it doesn’t change the fact that no psychic, ever, has demonstrated that they have any “psychic” ability. Asking if Matt “researched “every single” prediction, or just the ones that didn’t come true” is a nonsensical question. No one could research all of anything. Instead, a very large amount, called a sample, was well examined. None of them were found to be “hot hits”.

    Sylvia Browne does not have a high success rate – this can be demonstrated. She is a con-artist, plain and simple. Her predictions are almost always wrong. Telling a family whose child has been kidnapped, and who was later found alive and well, that he is dead and buried, is not a “decent human being” who helps people. It is being a parasite who feeds off of peoples’ sorrow and pain.

    You are correct, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But that does not make all opinions equally correct. The belief that some psychics are real is a valid opinion, but it is also entirely incorrect.

  6. Wayne said

    I like “Nikki, Psychic to the Stars”…she might never be right, but, god does she think big!!

  7. [...] here we are once again, and it’s time for that time-honored tradition of checking the accuracy of famous psychic [...]

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