When I was younger and even more naïve, I used to think there were two different kinds of psychics: frauds, and those who maybe had some genuine psychic talent. Now I'm older and somewhat wiser, and having briefly looked at the evidence, the statistics, and the techniques, I now realise the subtle but crucial flaw with my theory. The two different kinds of psychics are actually frauds, and those who believe they have some genuine psychic talent. Either way, these people are using tried and tested techniques that have evolved a lot over the millennia. The only difference is whether or not they are consciously aware of the techniques they are using.

The Full Facts book of Cold Reading is a brilliant guide in that it explains in detail how this con artistry works without aiming any bullshit at the reader. If you believe any psychics have genuine supernatural abilities, I'd urge you to read this or something similar in order to be able to distinguish between someone with real psychic talent and someone using the techniques it describes. If you then find someone who you still believe lies in the former category, feel free to let a skeptic such as myself know, because they'd be the first on record.

The main target readership of this book, of course, is a psychic who is completely honest with herself, although maybe not quite as honest with her clients. Regardless of whether you work with Tarot cards, astrology, or spirits, and whether you're engaging a single person in an intimate private session or working with a whole crowd, this book covers all aspects of the cold reading process.

The specific techniques discussed in the book are too numerous to even list here, let alone explore in detail. As the more scientific among you may have already guessed, a lot of them originate with people's willingness to believe, our gullibility, and most of all our obsession with recognising patterns even where none exist. As the author takes pains to point out, these are traits that we all share, even the most intelligent amongst us.

These techniques work in the same way that special effects in films work: most of them are very simple, but when they are used in quick succession, each one using a vastly different method to show a different part of the same impossible feat, you don't have time to analyse one before being bombarded with several others. In both cases, the overall result is far more than the sum of its parts and often appears to be utterly convincing.

This book will tell believers in psychic phenomena what to watch out for, and tell con artists how to perform completely believable psychic readings. The shame here is that, although believers may spend a lot of money on psychics, The Full Facts book of Cold Reading is fairly expensive as far as books go, and in order to be allowed to buy it, you need to answer five questions that only stage magicians will know the answer to. This allegedly stops the book falling into the wrong hands, although it seems to me that it only stops the book from falling into the hands of the people who need it the most, namely the victims of the industry.

I wouldn't be surprised if the secrecy involved also served to make this book seem like it contains intriguing forbidden knowledge, but if this is the case, it's entirely redundant. I can assure you that the book does indeed contain the secrets of a whole so-called industry.

All in all, this is the only book you need to read on the subject of psychic phenomena. You can use it to pass yourself off as psychic, or you can use it to help you distinguish between people with genuine psychic ability — although so far, not one of them has stood up to scientific testing — and people who are, whether they realise it or not, using the techniques the author describes. I'd recommended it to anyone seriously interested in the subject.

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