A few years ago in one of Derren Brown’s books I read him explain how mediums and psychics and other types of frauds and charlatans are able to trick people into thinking they have made insightful and accurate descriptions of an individual, when they have in fact simply made a series of bland, generic statements. It’s a clever and pernicious trick that leads people into revealing more of themselves than they really wanted to, by reading way more into what has been said than was really there. Derren Brown, in the book, has an example of just this kind of thing. Several pages of statements that genuinely sound like he was writting them specifically for you, when it is in fact broad statements that feel personal to everyone. We are happy to fill in the gaps and find significance when there is none.
I thought it was an interesting idea, so I had a go at writing a similar passage. This is from a few years ago, I found it in an old notebook this evening when I was looking for something else.
Remember, if this seems impossibly accurate or that I am speaking directly to you, I am not. This is just a trick.
You wouldn’t describe yourself as a people person, more as a person people. Evidence of your inability to pluralise correctly – an inability that is also your deepest secret shame. You often dream of riding a bicycle with two sets of stabilisers, one set on the back wheel, one set on the front. Your favourite vowel is ‘a’. Your favourite consonant is ‘n’. Your favourite word, therefore, is banana. You don’t eat food, rather you photosynthesize nutrients via the leafy foliage you keep hidden under your hat. You have no favourite colour and are suspicious of people that do. When asked what your favourite colour is you always lie ‘forest green’, and this is a source of intense self-loathing. You often try to manufacture a sense of deja-vu by repeating simple tasks twice in quick succession. You have five senses; touch, taste, sight, hearing and rhythm. You have no sense of smell. You have a strong dislike for both the metric and the imperial measurement systems, and are working feverishly on a third alternative. You are an expert in circular breathing, but have no interest in the didgeridoo.
There you go, eerily accurate.