Humans like to predict the future. That is just the way we are. From stock market trends to how well the new hit movie will sell at the box office, we always want to know what the future brings. Although it is widely agreed that the future is not set in stone, there is always a certain measure of predictability. Assumingly, you will get up tomorrow, eat breakfast, go to work or school, and so on. You probably wouldn’t predict that a large dinosaur will be attacking you on your way to work. That’s just the way life works. But what about horoscopes? You know, those articles you find in magazines that tells you to avoid wearing pink on Tuesday because its a bad omen. And then somehow you wear pink and you break a mirror on Tuesday. Is it magic, science, luck, or a combination of all three? Just how accurate are horoscopes?
What are horoscopes and how do they work? (1)
Horoscopes are charts based on the position of celestial objects in the sky. They look like this…
Horoscopes are based on astrology. Astrology is the study of planets, stars, moons and other cosmic objects and their placement in the sky and how they determine specific outcomes. Supposedly, according to astrology, a person’s personality is determined at birth and shaped by the placement of cosmic objects in the sky. They also determine a person’s romantic relationships, economic fortunes, and other significant events in a person’s life.
Each person is born under a sign. A person’s sign is determined by their date of birth. There are twelve signs in total and these signs correspond to the twelve constellations of the zodiac.
Constellations (English names in brackets):
- Capricorn (Goat) 22 December –20 January
- Aquarius (Water pourer) 21 January –19 February
- Pisces (Fish) 20 February – 20 March
- Aries (Ram) 21 March – 20 April
- Taurus (Bull) 21 April – 21 May
- Gemini (Twins) 22 May – 21 June
- Cancer (Crab) 22 June – 22 July
- Leo (Lion) 23 July – 22 August
- Virgo (Virgin) 23 August – 23 September
- Libra (Scale) 24 September – 23 October
- Scorpio (Scorpion) 24 October – 22 November
- Sagittarius (Archer) 23 November – 21 December
All signs are grouped under different elements. The elements are fire, water, air, and earth.
- Fire – Leo, Aries, Sagittarius
- Water – Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces
- Earth -Taurus, Virgo, Capricorn
- Air – Gemini, Libra, Aquarius
These elements give the signs their characteristics.
They are also grouped by the planets of the solar system, the sun, and the moon, and their alignment in relation to the signs. The sun, the moon and the planets have their own characteristics as well.
- Sun – Leo
- The Moon – Cancer
- Mercury -Gemini, Virgo
- Venus – Taurus, Libra
- Mars – Aries, Scorpio
- Jupiter – Pisces, Sagittarius
- Saturn – Capricorn, Aquarius
Where are the other planets? At the time when astrology was first developed, the other planets (Neptune, Uranus and Pluto) hadn’t been discovered. Uranus was first discovered in 1781, Neptune in 1846, and Pluto in 1930.
[To read more about the characteristics assigned to each planet, visit HowStuffWorks]
Basically all these factors and more are taken into consideration. Today, horoscopes tend to define the interpretation of celestial movements rather than astrological charts. Astrology is not a precise science as there can be different interpretations of the planets and signs and the significance of the cosmic placements in the sky. This is probably why not all horoscopes say the exact same thing. Astrology, though once regarded as factual, is now seen as a pseudoscience (a science that does not adhere to the scientific method).
Then… why are some horoscopes accurate?
In psychology, there is a common phenomenon called the self-fulfilling prophecy (a prediction that causes itself to become true based on positive feedback between belief and behavior) (2). Then there is chance. What if it was just chance that you broke your mirror on Tuesday after wearing pink? There is no clear way to know. Also, horoscopes are so incredibly generic that they can apply to anyone and to many situations. The person writing the horoscope would probably consider their audience. If it were a magazine for teen girls such as ASTROGirl (which I used to read a lot when I was a preteen) the horoscopes would probably contain things such as “April is a good time to ask your crush out to the movies” or “you will ace that math test.” These are things that would apply to someone of that age group. If a preteen girl would read Chatalaine they might read something like “your boss will give you a promotion” which may not apply to them.
Should we keep reading horoscopes?
Why not? It’s a great way to kill time when waiting for an appointment. Whether we decide to believe in them or not, they are mostly used for fun. We all like to pretend that we can predict the future. The possibility of knowing the outcome before it happens gives us a feeling of power over our own lives.
Until next time,
(1) Horoscopes and how they work – http://entertainment.howstuffworks.com/horoscopes-astrology/horoscope4.htm
(2) – Self Fulfilling Prophecy – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-fulfilling_prophecy