Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes

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When we read our Horoscopes we feel more in control because at least, they try to tell us what’s gonna happen next. When we believe that the positions of stars and planets affect our lives we also get an excuse to blame bad events on something beyond ourselves. Many people look forward to their weekly horoscope, using their astrological sign predictions as a guide for what's to come. The genius behind astrology readings is that they are vague enough to be ascribed to virtually any personality and life. An astrological reading is almost like mad libs: It provides the structure, but you fill in the blanks.

  1. Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes Huffington Post
  2. Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes
  3. Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes 2019
An image of the sun surrounded by a calendar showing seasons and the symbols of the zodiac that appear on the title page of an 1814 almanac written by Nathanael Low, M.D., and published by Munroe and Francis in Boston, Mass.

People who diligently follow their horoscopes may claim that it's all just good fun. But on closer examination, this claim falls flat. Here's why astrology is potentially damaging to our. Millions of people believe in astrology to the point where they’ll mention their zodiac sign to explain a personality trait, read their horoscopes on a daily basis, and use astrology to explain why something happened to them. But there is no scientific evidence to suggest that astrology is real.

As the summer officially begins, with the Summer Solstice occurring in the Northern Hemisphere on Thursday, those who enjoy Western astrology will be checking out their Summer Solstice horoscopes to try to use the stars to figure out what the season might have in store.

While some horoscopes sites may promise predictions based on the “movement” of the stars, it’s important to remember that it’s the Earth that’s moving, not the stars. The reason why stars look like they’re moving, both throughout the night and over the course of the year, is because the Earth rotates on its axis and orbits around the Sun. But, before most humans knew that, they spent a lot of time thinking about what was happening up there in the sky.

So, though astrology — looking for answers, signs and predictions in the movements of the celestial bodies —isn’t itself a science, there’s a long history of humans looking up at the stars to plan their lives. Farmers used the skies as a calendar as long ago as Ancient Egyptians, when the rising of Sirius, the Dog Star, around mid-July, was seen as a marker of the imminent annual flooding of the Nile. Travelers used the skies as a compass, following the stars to know where to go. And many people used the skies as a source of mystical direction, too.

But who first looked up at the sky to make sense of what was happening down on the ground and why their fellow humans were behaving in certain ways? Exactly who came up with this way of thinking and when is unclear, but historians and astronomers do know a bit about how it got so popular today.


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Where did zodiac signs come from?

The stars are just one of the many things in the natural world that human beings have turned to for answers over the years.

“We don’t really know who first came up with the idea for looking at things in nature and divining influences on humans,” says astronomer Sten Odenwald, the director of Citizen Science at the NASA Space Science Education Consortium. “There’s some indication that cave art shows this idea that animals and things can be imbued with some kind of spirit form that then has an influence on you, and if you appease that spirit form, then you will have a successful hunt. That was taken over by the idea of divination, where you can actually look at things in nature and study them carefully, such as tea-leaf reading.”

Some form of astrology shows up in various belief systems in ancient cultures.

In Ancient China, noblemen looked at eclipses or sunspots as portents of good or bad times for their emperor, though it’s thought that those signs had less application to the lives of other individuals. (Odenwald points out that in societies where people in the lower classes had less control over their lives, divination could seem pointless.) The Sumarians and Babylonians, by around the middle of the second millennium BC, appeared to have had many divination practices — they looked at spots on the liver and the entrails of animals, for example — and their idea that watching planets and stars was a way to keep track of where gods were in the sky can be traced to The Venus tablet of Ammisaduqa. This tablet, which is dated to the first millennium BC and tracks the motion of Venus, is one of the earliest pieces of what’s been called Babylonian planetary omens. The ancient Egyptians contributed the idea that patterns of stars made up constellations, through which the sun appears to “move” at a specific times during the year.

It’s thought that all of these ideas came together when Alexander the Great conquered Egypt around 330 BC.

“There must have been a lot of exchange that got the Greeks on-board with the idea of divination using planets,” says Odenwald, and because they were deep into mathematics and logic, they worked out a lot of the rules for how this could work.”

Here’s how NASA has described how that logic led to the creation of the familiar zodiac signs known today:

What are the 12 signs of the zodiac?

It was during this Ancient Greek period that the 12 star signs of the zodiac with which many people are likely familiar today — Aries (roughly March 21-April 19), Taurus (April 20-May 20), Gemini (May 21-June 20), Cancer (June 21-July 22), Leo (July 23-Aug. 22), Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22), Libra (Sept. 23-Oct. 22), Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 21), Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 21), Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 19), Aquarius (Jan. 20 to Feb. 18) and Pisces (Feb. 19 to March 20) — were set down. These Western, or tropical, zodiac signs were named after constellations and matched with dates based on the apparent relationship between their placement in the sky and the sun. Vedic astrology services schedule.

The Babylonians had already divided the zodiac into 12 equal signs by 1500 BC — boasting similar constellation names to the ones familiar today, such as The Great Twins, The Lion, The Scales — and these were later incorporated into Greek divination. The astronomer Ptolemy, author of theTetrabiblos, which became a core book in the history of Western astrology, helped popularize these 12 signs.

“This whole idea that there were 12 signs along the zodiac that were 30° wide, and [that] the sun moved through these signs regularly during the year, that was codified by Ptolemy,” says Odenwald. Even the word “zodiac” comes from the Greek, from a term for “sculpted animal figure,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary, and the order in which the signs are usually listed comes from that period too.

“Back at the time of the Greeks,” Odenwald explains, “the first day of spring started when the sun appeared in the constellation Aries and then everything was marked from that time forward around the circuit of the year.”

However, the Earth has moved on its axis since then, a process known as precession, so now the dates that are used to mark the signs don’t really correspond to the background constellations that give them their signs names. In fact, the chronology has really shifted one sign to the West. That means zodiac sign dates, based on the mathematical division of the year, basically correspond today to the presence of the sun in the constellations of the signs that come before them. (The set nature of the signs is also why the Minnesota Planetarium Society’s 2011 argument that there should be a 13th zodiac sign now, Ophiuchus, didn’t actually result in a big astrology change.)

“Before, astrologers looked at where the sun was relative to background constellations in general, and that generally matched up almost exactly with the signs of zodiac defined by Ptolemy,” says Odenwald. “Now astrologers do their calculations and forecasting based on where the planets and the sun are relative to the 12 signs —which are fixed — and not based on where they are relative to the constellations. Astrologers say if the sun is in the sign of Sagittarius on the day you were born, then you’re a Sagittarius.”

Read More: Mercury Is Entering Retrograde Again. This Is Why So Many People Care

What’s the difference between astrology and astronomy?

For centuries, astrology (looking for signs based on the movement of the celestial bodies) was considered basically the same thing as astronomy (the scientific study of those objects). For example, revolutionary 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler, who studied the motion of the planets, was at the time considered an astrologer. That changed around the beginning of the Enlightenment in the late 17th century.

Once Sir Isaac Newton basically turned the sky into a calculator, mathematizing the motion of the planets and realizing that gravity controlled everything, Odenwald says, “that started a whole new scientific approach to looking at the sky and the motion of planets and the earth.”


That’s the point at which astronomy came to be known as a science and astrology was acknowledged as not a science. But its popularity relies on factors that numbers can’t compute, and the appeal of looking to the stars for answers has not waned — in fact, in recent years, it seems to have expanded. After all, a 2014 National Science Foundation poll found more than half of millennials think astrology is a science.

And Odenwald argues that, even if astrology’s answers aren’t based on scientific study, the reason people keep turning to the sky does come down to something very real — a psychological phenomenon he calls the human tendency for “self-selection,” the search for interpretations that match what we already hope to be true.

“People magnify the positives, they forget the negatives,” he says, “and that’s just how we’re designed.”

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A new year can bring feelings of hope and excitement but also fear and uncertainty. Some people try to ease these feelings of discomfort by unconventional means like tarot card reading and astrology.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) stresses the importance of tolerating uncertainty and discomfort as well as cultivating a scientific, reasoned mindset that aids problem-solving. It’s hardly surprising, then, that I’m not keen on astrology and the likes. Still, although scientific evidence shows astrology doesn’t work, many people swear by it, relating how a fortune-teller made all kinds of accurate and personal predictions about them.

What’s going on in such cases? Firstly, remember most predictions made are vague and generalised. In one classic psychology experiment, students were administered a personality test and then asked to rate how well the results matched them. Unknown to the students, the test was a trick; instead of receiving individualised assessments, everyone received the same set of statements, which contained lines like ‘You have a tendency to be critical of yourself’, ‘While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them’, ‘At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing’, amongst others. The average student rated its accuracy at 4.3 on a scale of 0 (very poor) to 5 (excellent), not noticing the statements were general enough to apply to most people.


A recent article in the Guardian newspaper by Felicity Carter, a former astrologer, offers other insights into how someone can seem gifted when, well, they’re not. Much of the time, she said, people just wanted to talk and unload. The most common problems were, unsurprisingly, trouble with romance, with work, with finding the courage to make a much-needed change. ‘I heard these stories so often I could often guess what the problem was the moment someone walked in’, she said. Heartbroken young men were regular visitors. ‘Sometimes I’d mischievously say, “Let her go. She’s not worth it,” as soon as one arrived. Once I heard, “Oh my God, oh my GOD!” as an amazed guy fell backwards down the stairs.’

Sometimes, she said times, she could be “uncannily accurate” without quite knowing why, like the time a student asked if she should specialise in photography, graphic design or industrial design. ‘Do photography’, she replied. ‘How did you know?’, the student asked, explaining photography was her real love. She reflected: the student had simply sounded happier when she said ‘photography’. This happens all the time. People pick up on verbal and non-verbal cues, with each one building on the last and creating a “how did they know that?” feeling.

Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes Huffington Post

Ironically, what persuaded Carter to give up her job was people overestimating her abilities. Some repeat customers claimed she had made very specific predictions, of a kind she never made. It dawned on her the readings were a ‘co-creation’; she would ‘weave a story and, later, the customer’s memory would add new elements’. She tested this theory after a friend raved about a fantastic reading she’d had with a clairvoyant. The friend had a tape of the session so she asked her to play it. ‘The clairvoyant had said none of the things my friend claimed. Not a single one. My friend’s imagination had done all the work.’

This is not as surprising as it may seem. Scientific research confirms human memory is very fallible. We tend to remember the gist of an event, not the exact details, and fill in gaps in our memories with details that confirm our hunches and preferences. Much research, including a recent paper by Dr Gillian Murphy from UCC’s School of Applied Psychology, shows people are very susceptible to forming false memories.

Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes

Nor does education or intelligence protect against superstition. Carter’s customers included ‘stockbrokers, advertising executives or politicians, dealing with issues whose outcomes couldn’t be controlled. It’s uncertainty that drives people into woo, not stupidity’.

Why Do People Believe In Horoscopes 2019

Uncertainty in life isn’t pleasant, but it’s unavoidable; better to accept it rather than seeking false certainty. Whatever challenges you are facing, it makes sense to put away the horoscopes and instead try and problem-solve them using reason and evidence.