Why psychics hate Derren Brown

There’s a long stranding belief that astrologers, psychics, and Tarot readers generally do no harm. Most people who read their horoscope do so out of sheer curiosity, and because they enjoy being surprised by the occasional reading that seems genuine. Of course, this belief often disregards the giant disfavor done to individuals who often rely on such quacks to tell them what do with their lives.

The technique every psychic relies on is called ‘cold reading’. There’s nothing too difficult about it. First, you start off with a rather general statement about a person based only on their appearance and demeanor. You can then proceed by making educated guesses on what might be bothering someone. Human beings are generally very similar, and we all share the same fears that others would in our situation. In fact, a psychic could simply be reading the same generic profile and have every single client believe it was an extremely accurate representation of their personality.

Enter Derren Brown. Derren is a performance artist who doubles as a debunker of psychics. He puts on shows to demonstrate to others how easily they can be fooled. In this particular video, he exposes just how easy it is for someone to fill in the gaps in their personality, by simply applying the most basic cold reading. Derren does not even need to be one on one with the person. A prewritten ‘assessment’ and the victim’s imagination are all he needs to have them completely under his spell.

It’s interesting to note after the initial embarrassment and subsequent enjoyment of the performance, many of the participants left feeling more confident in their ability to apply rigorous skepticism to claims of paranormal talents. Some no doubt left with a distaste for the relatively cheap parlor trick being played on their friends and loved ones. Many probably left the studio wanting to warn them of just how easy it is to be fooled.

It takes professional entertainers to be able to fully awaken the rest of us to the dangers psychics can represent. An illusionist is aware that the same ability to fool people can be used to entertain as it can be to control, confuse, and abuse. They can appreciate the vulnerabilities of the human mind because it is their job to exploit them for our entertainment. No doubt they must look upon their counterparts, who claim supernatural powers while simultaneously bilking their fellow human beings of their hard earned money, with a great deal of contempt and anger. Mr. Brown has found an avid new fan with his obvious display of compassion. Keep up the good work!

Comments (14)

  • avatar


    Great find!

    Amazing how different all those people were, yet they all wanted to believe someone really knew them that intimately. Wonder where that feeling comes from…

  • avatar

    Jacob Fortin

    Actually, that comes from something called the “Forer Effect”. check out this link to learn more about it: http://skepdic.com/forer.html

    As for someone wanting to be known and love, that no more proves the existence of Jesus than sun glasses prove that the nose needs to stick out.

  • avatar


    That link just puts a name to it. Where did it come from? Why does it work the way that it does? How come no other animals seem to work the same way?

  • avatar


    BTW, did you catch the video of this guy play 9 chess champions (4 grandmasters i think) and actually winning coming out on top!?!? i think he won 4 matches, lost 3 and had 2 draws… brilliantly simple when you look at it afterwards 🙂


  • avatar


    man i butchered that last post..

  • avatar


    derren brown is a cunt. if everything he claims is so fake then how can he look into a peephole and make some fucker on the otherside faint. or is it his shit trick of turnin the camera off, asking the person on the other side to fall over and turn it back on because thats the kind of shit he does.

  • avatar

    Jonathan Chase

    Derren is a wonderful showman. And he has a huge chip on both shoulders from his past.

    The reasoning that because you can emulate something that the thing must be false is just pathetic.

    The reasoning that everything that can not be proved or does not make logical ‘sense’ is a very shakey one when you look at our history. From a flat Earth to our universe being nothing but energy, man has constantly been wrong time and again.

    The really sad thing is this, humans have a huge capacity to experience the universe in a way no other animal has. But thanks to sceptics and science very little is done to discover how to enhance those skills.

    Mr Brown talks a great talk however what he actually does on stage and off is work with a certain group of people who are all strictly vetted before his TV shows. In live performance he reverts to simple conjuring tricks and uses none of the language skill he says every psychic is doing.

    The vast majority of people who experience paranormal phenomenon are doing just that, it’s sad when instead of truly investigating our wonderful experience those phenomena are just shrugged off as a human frailty.

    The modern day witch hunt continues. But we don’t hate the hunters, we should pity them.

    Jonathan Chase

  • avatar


    As Jonathan said above, it is a HUGE logical fallacy to conclude that because something can be emulated through trickery, illusion etc., that all instances of that something must be fake in general.

    Taking the fallacy to the extreme: I can create amazing sunset photographs by using Photoshop, therefore this must mean that ALL amazing sunsets we see are fake. The relationship between a real sunset and a photograph of a sunset is no more or less different than the relationship between someone pretending to be psychic and a genuine psychic, therefore the example I just gave is a valid one.

    Or, how about this: I can smile and put on a happy face even though I’m not happy. Therefore, ALL people who smile and put on a happy face must be faking their true emotions also.

    The key word in the fallacies just mentioned is the word “ALL”. It is a logical fallacy to conclude that ALL instances of a situation which can also be faked must be fake also. A far more accurate and honest conclusion is this: I can smile and put on a happy face even though I’m not happy. Therefore, SOME people who smile and put on a happy face could be faking their true emotions also.

    Similarly, in the case of Derren Brown, his ability to emulate a psychic means that SOME people who appear psychic are charlatans. We cannot know the exact percentage, and we CANNOT conclude, if we’re true sceptics and true scientists, that ALL such people must be charlatans, for to make such a conclusion, one is making the a priori assumption that “psychics, by definition, are frauds”. It *does not follow* that ALL of these people are. Despite this fact, it has not seemed to have discouraged a growing rabble of pseudosceptics of the worst kind from doing this. (Richard Dawkins is presently at the head of such rabble.)

    All it requires is someone to take the time to read the unbiased, independent scientific laboratory studies which have been conducted in “paranormal” fields to quickly reach the conclusion that some instances of “paranormal” phenomena are indeed genuine. Read the excellent book “The Field” by Lynne McTaggart, along with all of its hundreds of citations to the source experiments etc., to see the truth for yourself.

  • avatar


    Further to the comments above, I would like to add something.

    It is true that just because a phenomenon can be emulated with trickery it does not automatically mean that every demonstration of apparent psychic ability is fake.

    However, an intelligent man proportions his belief to the evidence. Given that that the ability can be reproduced with psychological trickery (to an arguably more accurate degree) by people like Derren Brown, and given that the scientific consensus is firmly against the psychics, the burden of proof lies with the person making the extra-ordinary claim. In short, although being able to relicate the ability with trickery doesn’t prove that all psychics are frauds, it isn’t up to the scientists to prove anything!

    To repeat a well-known quote: keep an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.

  • avatar


    “The field” is an awesome book, i would suggest it to everyone.

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    Darren browns reading was vague and rubbish, anyone with a brain like myself would know that was a cold reading.. i have been to psychics that predict the future and get it right, tell things with 100% accuracy. which the psychics also stunned darren brown and made him look stupid.. and at the end of the show he edited it all to make him look like the genuine one… the psychics were genuine and darren found out but obviously for his own carear lies even until today..

  • avatar


    It really worries me that people who are intelligent still believe that psyhics are anything other than frauds.
    NO paranormal activity have EVER been proved under scientific test conditions.
    The gullability of some people beggars belief.

    Oh yeh, and there are NO gods.
    at all
    and there never have been

  • avatar


    For goodness sake all these believers in this psychic crap and whatnot are part of the reason why the human race is stunted in its advancement and allows would be gods? and usurpers to control and manipulate and even cause death to their fellow man.

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    I seen Derren at the theatre last night and was blown away by his performance. I’m an open minded person, but let experience speak truth rather than assumptions or completely rely on science (we’ve came along way since science had us believe that the world was once flat, but we still have MUCH to learn).

    What confuses me is Derren saying that he isn’t psychic, yet when he throws a frisbee into the audience to enable a random selection of participants, he’s able to read their minds with accuracy…
    Although I wasn’t a participant, I’ve had a reading from a genuine psychic and it wasn’t just some vague ‘cold reading’, it was in depth, targeting very specific personal memories and experiences with accuracy. I was also very stubborn because I didn’t want to give anything away or cheat myself out of the experience.

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