The Forer Effect

Does this describe you?

You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. Disciplined and self-controlled on the outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure on the inside. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations. You also pride yourself as an independent thinker; and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof. But you have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others. At times you are extroverted, affable, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, and reserved. Some of your aspirations tend to be rather unrealistic.

If you said yes, you’ve been had. The description was assembled from random horoscopes by psychologist B.R. Forer in 1948. He found that if you give someone a vague, mostly positive personality description, and tell him it’s tailored specifically to him, he’ll rate it as highly accurate. It’s called “the Forer effect.”

Veteran Longevity

The last surviving American veteran of the …

  • … American Revolutionary War, Daniel F. Bakeman, died in 1869 at age 109.
  • … War of 1812, Hiram Cronk, died in 1905 at age 105.
  • … Mexican-American War, Owen Thomas Edgar, died in 1929 at age 98.
  • … Spanish-American War, Jones Morgan, died in 1993 at age 111.

The last surviving Union veteran of the American Civil War was Albert Woolson, who died in 1956 at age 109. Amazingly, the last surviving Confederate, John B. Salling, survived until 1959, when he died at age 113.

Four Months Adrift

In 1942, Chinese sailor Poon Lim survived 130 days drifting alone in the South Atlantic. A German U-boat torpedoed his ship and he climbed into a life raft. Lim stayed alive by catching rainwater in a canvas tarp and fishing with a bent nail. At first he counted the days by tying knots in a rope, but then simply began counting full moons. He reached Brazil in April 1943, 20 pounds lighter but able to walk unaided. “I hope no one will ever have to break that record,” he said.

Get Out of Jail Free

There’s no Marvin Gardens in Atlantic City. Most properties in Monopoly correspond to real locations in that town, but Charles Darrow accidentally misspelled Marven Gardens, a local housing area, when he created his homemade prototype of the game in 1935. The error persisted until 1995, when Parker Brothers formally apologized to the residents of Marven Gardens for the misspelling.

In 1974, San Francisco State University professor Ralph Anspach released a variant of the game called Anti-Monopoly, in which the board is “monopolized” at the start and players compete to return to a free market system. Parker Brothers tried to suppress Anspach’s game, essentially claiming a monopoly on the word monopoly. Apparently that was too much irony for the Supreme Court, which ruled in Anspach’s favor in 1983.

The Madness of Crowds

Countries with the densest populations:

  1. Monaco – 16,620 inhabitants per square kilometer
  2. Singapore – 6,389
  3. Vatican City – 2,093
  4. Malta – 1,261
  5. Maldives – 1,163
  6. Bahrain – 1,035
  7. Bangladesh – 1,002
  8. Barbados – 647
  9. Republic of China (Taiwan) – 636
  10. Nauru – 621

… and the least dense:

  1. Guyana – 3 inhabitants per square kilometer
  2. Canada – 3
  3. Libya – 3
  4. Mauritania – 2
  5. Iceland – 2
  6. Botswana – 2
  7. Suriname – 2
  8. Australia – 2
  9. Namibia – 2
  10. Mongolia – 1

Taken as a whole, the population density of the planet is 43 inhabitants per square kilometer.

Contradictory Proverbs

Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Out of sight, out of mind.

You’re never too old to learn.
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Better safe than sorry.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Nice guys finish last.

Many hands make light work.
Too many cooks spoil the broth.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Silence is golden.