As I’m sure most of you know, there was a lot of outrageous nonsense this weekend in Arizona; you can now be arrested for looking like an illegal immigrant. That’s certainly a lot of ugliness for such a beautiful state. However, while the focus in the news was rightfully on the thinly-disguised racism there, wackiness of a different sort was taking place in Tuscon: the Tuscon Psychic Fair, a monthly(!) event featuring free lectures (this month: “Are you living with a ghost?”) and paid 15-minute psychic readings, this time with special guest Celebrity Sex Psychic Belinda Bentley.
If you’re like me, you weren’t even aware that there was a Celebrity Sex Psychic. The reason for that is simple, as Ms. Bentley proudly proclaims on her website: she’s the only one! As for the “celebrity” part of her job description,
Belinda Bentley is now a Celebrity Psychic being featured in all aspects of media worldwide, including Star Magazine, Diva Magazine, Darkness Radio with Dave Schrader, Playboy radio,VH1, E! and her own radio show ?Disturbed Paranormal?(sic) with co – host, Hale S. Mednik. Although most celebrity clientele is kept confidential, Belinda has worked with Dave Navarro on Spread TV and has been named his “In House Psychic.” She has also been linked to other Hollywood celebrities!
Wow! Dave Navarro? The guitarist who’s played with Jane’s Addiction and Red Hot Chili Peppers? With such luminescent star power, I’m surprised that she needs a website on which she charges $150 for an hour psychic session!
I first learned about Sex Psychic Belinda Bentley from a blog on the Tuscon Citizen website. In a three page article, author Cherlyn Gardner Strong unwittingly shows exactly why psychic abilities, which have no basis in scientific reality, have captured the imagination and continue to be believed to be an actual “talent”: confirmation bias. If you already believe something to be true, you will consciously or unconsciously count all of the “hits” that confirm your belief, while ignoring or discounting all the “misses” that disprove it. Confirmation bias is why many believe that there is more crime during a full moon (there isn’t) or why celebrities always die in threes (they don’t).
Strong’s article is loaded with confirmation bias. For the most direct example, look at Bentley’s reading of the author herself, which has Strong alternating “between my mouth hanging open and shielding the phone to mask my uncontrollable giggling”:
First off, she told me that I am facing numerous changes in all areas of my life. Yes, we all are. She added though, I am a jumbled mess, I hate being told what to do, and I really need to quit thinking so much! Yeah, sums up what my friends and family say about me!
Let’s take a closer look at this “amazing” prediction. Bentley says that Strong is “a jumbled mess” , hates “being told what to do”, and that she needs to “quit thinking so much.” Ok, I’m going to take a scientific poll: raise your hands if your life is “a jumbled mess”. Hmmm… apparently almost all of you think you don’t have things under control – shocking! Now raise your hand if you “hate being told what to do.” Really? Wow! Who would have guessed that so many people don’t like to be ordered around? Do I even need to ask how many of you think you think too much? I didn’t “think” so; the answer’s obvious, and I’m not even psychic.
This is one of the tricks of psychics, even “celebrity sex psychics”. They make very general personality observations phrased in such a way that they could apply to almost anyone. True believers, already inclined to see genuine psychic abilities, see these bland statements as evidence so complete that it leaves their mouths gaping open.
Arizona, I hope you all begin to understand that looking Mexican does not confirm that an individual is an illegal immigrant, and that silly, general statements do not prove that someone is a psychic.