Someone make sure Channing Tatum sees this explanation. He says it’s important.
Movie star Channing Tatum went on a panicked video rant about an astrology app, asking the company to send him information on how their horoscopes are so accurate. Since he is so interested, I’ll explain how it works.
Magic Mike himself posted the video on Instagram on Friday, writing, “Yo anybody know of this shit and can explain it to me! Cause WTF!”
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“How do you know what you know about me, Pattern?” Tatum said. “People of The Pattern, people that use The Pattern, you need to DM me right now and tell me how you know this stuff. I don’t even know if I want to know this stuff. I don’t even know if I want to know—I don’t know if anybody should know this stuff.”
The actor went on to tell a story about therapy, and ask if the app had been listening in on his session.
“I was just in therapy yesterday—yeah I’m in therapy, whatever, everyone should be in therapy,” he said. “And I just get a notification on my phone this morning, boop, pops up, and using the exact words that we were using in therapy…is the phone listening? Are you listening through the phone, Pattern? A.I., the algorithm that is The Pattern, are you listening through my phone and then just regurgitating the stuff that I’m afraid of?“
Tatum didn’t elaborate on the predicted information, but I downloaded the app to review it for myself. So, here’s what Tatum was amazed by:
When I downloaded the app, it asked for my name, birth date, and birth time. I initially got the following error message:
I tried again the next day, and was able to log in via Facebook (Given Tatum’s video, I was worried that the app would pull data from social media to appear more knowledgeable). It turns out, it is extremely basic and uses generalized phrases that are meaningful to most people.
That being said, here’s what the app predicted for me:For starters, to call me “likeable” would be to ignore the fact that most of my messages are hate mail. Likewise, no one who knows me personally would ever describe me as “codependent.” I’m actually an anxious mess, so this whole section is a swing and a miss. This would probably apply to many people, but not me.
It also found that I’m “sensitive and adaptable.”
The first sentence, while true, literally applies to every single human being. It’s part of the definition of “growing up.” But I definitely didn’t absorb the beliefs of my family; that’s my whole thing!
Despite getting a lot of misses, the app wouldn’t work if there weren’t some hits, too. And that’s what Tatum is focusing on. So, here’s how the app works:
It’s just the Forer Effect. Named for psychologist Bertram R. Forer, this describes how individuals will rate vague and generalized personality tests as highly descriptive of themselves. Here’s an excerpt on the subject from my book, No Sacred Cows: Investigating Myths, Cults, and the Supernatural.
In 1948, Forer gave such an assignment to his students, claiming that the statements they received were individualized personality analyses. Although each student received the same paragraph descriptor, which he had compiled from various horoscopes, the average rating was 4.26 on a scale from 0 to 5. Forer’s study further noted that “similarities between the demonstration and the activities of charlatans were pointed out” by the students once the deception was revealed. The fact is that psychics, astrologers, and other pseudoscientific fraudsters have taken advantage of this simple, evolutionary human trait for most of human history. Our earliest ancestors were practicing the art of fortunetelling, and people continue to do so today—often with disastrous (and profitable) results.
In other words, Channing, no they probably aren’t listening to your therapy. It’s more likely that you discussed general fears and anxieties in your session, and the app simply regurgitated that information and made it seem more meaningful.
It’s not really surprising that Tatum and others are falling for this. After all, we recently reported that more and more people are turning to horoscopes and crystals over religions. But it’s still important to recognize that being a celebrity doesn’t make you a genius, and that this app is basically a fortune cookie with pop-up ads.