Cold Reading, although around for years, has made news lately (look up Florida Gypsy Psychic Scam among others). Cold Reading is a series of techniques—predominately verbal and a few physical-- that permits the reader to extract details out of a complete stranger. If done well, the subject does not understand that they supplied the information about themselves!
Cold Reading is employed by Counselors, Palm and Tarot Readers, Mentalists, Sales Persons, Medicine Men, Pick up Artists, Priests and Priestesses and, let’s not forget fake Psychics. Cold Reading allows the reader to establish rapport with a stranger quickly. I chose to pursue Cold Reading to aide me in building my consulting network.
A few days ago, I realized we need to add Santa Claus to the list of Cold Readers.
My mom—being true to form--- did her research before taking my nephews out for their annual Santa photo. Mom was on a mission find the best Santa Claus. She drove from mall to mall as well as other Santa venues around Southern California to rate the Santas. Apparently, the Santa at the Westminster Mall in Orange County received mom’s approval on look and interaction. Mom and the boys drove all the way down to Westminster Mall.
Now pay attention to the following exchange between Michael and Santa Claus. I’ll try to point out the cold reading in [brackets] and the technique in bold. It will actually take me longer to type out and for you to read than the entire exchange took.
When Michael and his baby brother reached their turn to see Santa, Santa looked Michael up and down and said, “Well, Michael, I see you have grown an inch and a half since last year!” [Great all-purpose statement that applies to all kids. What child had not grown or think they had grown since last year? This technique is called a “Barnum Statement”; Barnum Statements describe aspects of the client that would apply correctly to most people. As far as Michael’s name, undoubtedly, my mom had instructed the eight year old, hyperactive, Michael, to stand still or get back in line. Mom usually corrects us kids with some volume. Santa most likely overheard.]
Michael’s eyes grew wide. [Michael has an expressive, rubber face, rivaled only by Jim Carey. Cold readers utilize observation to pull in clues about the target. Manner of dress is one source of information. It helps that Michael’s trousers are hovering around his ankles AGAIN. Santa could have guessed Michael’s growth based on what he was wearing. Minute expressions are used to gauge if the reader is on the right track. Here are a few examples: widening or narrowing of the eyes, change in breathing pace, tightening of lips or opening mouth, flaring of nostrils, where their eyes are looking and more.]
“I’m tallest of all of the other third graders at my school!” Michael’s speech picks up, “When I am 14 I want to be as tall as James or even taller like Adam.” [Michael just volunteered he is in third grade and is likely to have two older brothers. If brothers, the best guess on birth order is Adam, James and Michael. Now that I think of it, Adam means “first born”. I had not considered Onomastics until just now. ]
[Santa’s eyes flit behind Michael to see my mom holding the four month old baby in very “boy” clothes.] “Last year, you wanted to be a big brother. There are four boys this year.” [Santa’s raised his eyebrow, which converts these statements into questions. This technique is called the “Disguised Question.” Also Santa does not commit to the word “brothers” just in case he is incorrect.]
Michael held up four fingers, “Yep! Now there are four of us brothers.”
Santa smiles, “I told you last year you’d be a big brother too.” [This is half lie and half guess and it works; it could be called the “Good Chance Guess”. Santa has confirmed Adam and James are brothers. The big gap between Michael and the baby means Michael has been the “little” brother for some time.]
[As my mom confirms the photo package with the “Elves” and Michael situates himself on Santa’s lap, Santa engages Michael in a conversation about the children in his class. This gives Santa enough time for Michael for forget he volunteered his brothers’ names.]
Santa ho-ho-hos as mom hands him the baby. Mom whispers the name “John ” to Santa.
“Wow, Michael! I can’t tell if John looks more like James or your oldest brother, Adam!” [Well played, Santa! Michael thinks Santa “knew” James, John and Adam’s names and that Adam is the eldest. This technique is called “Feedback”. ]
[The minute or two left of the visit continues as Santa continues to feedback and work with the information Michael has provided. A good guess or two was thrown in for good measure. Santa even impresses Michael that Santa knew that my mom watched “Howdy Doody” as a kid. A good guess on my mom’s age and a bet her family had a television pays off. This technique is called the “Stat Fact.” I suspect Santa knows all the pop culture trends/stats to use on other kids of all ages.]
There is much more to cold reading than is presented here. I think you get the idea.
Santa Claus is a hell of a cold reader. I just may hang out at the mall for a day and pick up some tips.
Santa--- wherever you are-- thanks for helping keep Christmas magic alive one more year with or without Cold Reading. There is not enough hope and magic in the world.
The Handbook of Psychic Cold Reading (2010) by Dantalion Jones
Psychic Cold Reading in Theory and Practice (2010) by Terry Weston