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I can't resist reading the horoscopes

 Do you believe in horoscopes? (Photo: iStock)

Hi Chris,

I love reading the horoscopes in the newspapers, but my boyfriend really pours scorn on them.

He says that millions of people are born under the same sign, so how can a horoscope say something special about me?

What do you think?

Star Struck

Chris says,

Hi Star Struck!

Your boyfriend's scepticism is understandable. Like the way, horoscopes say the same things year in and year out. Again and again, we are told our finances will improve or that it is a good time to start something new. These predictions cannot all be true, but they are irresistible.

Partly it is the way they are written, 'things have been tough, but they are improving,' which reflects our hopes for better times. And we cannot resist the idea that our star sign somehow defines us. Like saying that a Taurus is trustworthy. We also do not want to hear bad news, and horoscope writers know that. So around 70 per cent of their predictions are optimistic.

Horoscopes seem to give meaning to our lives, but they are also self-fulfilling prophesies. Because believers start ignoring aspects of their personalities that do not conform to their sign. So people who have no faith in star signs have very varied personalities, while the behaviour of people who trust them is usually close to their sign definition.

Believing in horoscopes comes from the way our brains try to work out what causes things to happen to us. Like noticing that certain foods upset your stomach, so you avoid them in the future. But our brains are often fooled. So when your horoscope seems to work once or twice, your subconscious logs it as being an accurate prediction. But in fact, it was just a coincidence.

Having said that, horoscopes can be helpful, by making us feel more in control of our lives and relieving anxiety. So the next time you are reading your horoscope, remember why our brains believe they work. But do not feel you have to stop! You might smile a little at what you are doing in future, but reading them is still a nice idea if they help you feel good.

All the best,


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