In the 8th century BC, a Greek shepherd found his goats behaving strangely. Nearby was a chasm, with vapors coming out of the ground. When he got close, he inhaled the fumes and began to have strange visions of the future. Word got around, as you would imagine. Others wanted to see their own futures, so they came to inhale the mysterious vapors, too. Jostling for position was so fierce that some fell into the chasm and died. As a community safety measure, officials decided the public must be kept away and only one person would be allowed access the magic vapors. They chose a young woman of chastity and purity as their designated representative. She would sit on a tripod above the chasm and inhale the vapors. This would cause her to fall into a trance, muttering words incomprehensible to mere mortals. Priests would translate this gibberish into language the commoners could understand.
Demand for these Oracles of Delphi was high.
In spite of the oracles always being deliberately ambiguous and open to multiple interpretations, they became infallible “truths.” The crowds grew so large that that officials built a sanctuary to keep the peasants even farther back. Those who wanted to skip the long line were given the opportunity to pay great sums for VIP treatment. In time, commoners were banned altogether in favor of granting audiences only to people of wealth and influence. This was when Pythia gave up fortunetelling and became the exclusive spokesperson for Apollo, the god of oracles and knowledge.
So if you think “great wisdom” when you hear the Oracle of Delphi, think again.
The use of intentional vagueness allows the “seer” to always be right. This technique has been carried on for centuries by fortune tellers and astrologers.
“You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision. Sometimes you are extroverted and other times introverted.”
Manipulators know that most people do not see these statements as generalizations.
Instead, they see positive statements about themselves as accurate if they are flattering enough. The Rorer Tests presented the exact same information to people who were told it applied only to their astrological sign.
Seventy years of testing and the results are remarkably consistent – more than eight of ten believe the information to be highly accurate descriptions of themselves.