A variation on a hot reading
, a cold reading
is a seemingly psychic
statement actually derived from a subject
's previous answer(s) or information gathered in advance. The "psychic" usually takes advantage of reading the subject's facial and verbal reactions to vague statements to fish for answers.
John Edward of Sci-Fi Channel's Crossing Over with John Edward has often been accused of cold reading members of the audience but still garners high television ratings on his show. Most people who attend Crossing Over desire to connect to their deceased relatives or loved ones. Previous audience members have said that "technical difficulties" last for an hour before the taping begins. Like in the Steve Martin film, Leap of Faith, staff members go around the audience to ask questions such as, "Why are you here?" In addition, hidden microphones are said to be planted around the audience area to help staff member collect data from audience conversations which are likely about their deceased relatives.
During the taping, John Edward says something like, "I'm getting a feeling from over here", motioning to an area of the audience. Then he singles out an audience member and says "I see a man... a father figure...", pauses and waits for a reaction, "he died of something in the chest area...", and carries on from there using help from the subject. Something in the chest area could very well be anything from a heart attack, emphysema, pneumonia, to a broken heart. Then he says something comforting -- that the desceased is watching over the subject's children. Viewing the television airing of their show, subjected audience members have said that tapes have been edited so that shaking their heads in disagreement with a statement have been replaced with them nodding.
Even though cold readings are manipulated from subjects themselves, they do give closure to those who really need it.
Jaroff, Leon. "Talking to the Dead". Time March 5, 2001: 52.
Michael McNamara. "Michael McNamara Personal Commentary: John Edward -- SciFi Channel's Darling", 2000.