Definition of Barnum effect in English:

Barnum effect


  • The tendency to accept as true types of information such as character assessments or horoscopes, even when the information is so vague as to be worthless.

    • ‘The technique appears to have parallels to the Barnum effect used by some mediums, clairvoyants, and tarot card readers.’
    • ‘Much of the seeming ‘accuracy ‘of such checklists could stem from ‘P.T. Barnum effects ‘.’
    • ‘Behavioural genetics is such smashing science, it does not need to use anything that could look like a Barnum effect.’
    • ‘CSICOP's Joe Nickell appeared on the show to discuss techniques of cold reading and the Barnum effect.’
    • ‘It also cuts out the ‘Barnum effect’ of performers fishing for information.’


Named after P. T. Barnum (see Barnum, P. T); the word Barnum was in use from the mid 19th century as a noun in the sense ‘nonsense, humbug’.