Fun with the Forer Effect

Recently one of my favorite blogs, Slate Star Codex, mentioned a concept called the Forer Effect in a post about ADHD and Rejection Sensitivity. I was previously aware of this general effect on people, but I was not aware it has a name and has been studied.

The Forer Effect is described on Slate Star Codex as: “the tendency for everyone to believe a generic statement describes them especially.” And it provides this, “Forer’s original list of statements that produce the effect:

1. You have a great need for other people to like and admire you.
2. You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.
3. You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not turned to your advantage.
4. While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.
5. Disciplined and self-controlled outside, you tend to be worrisome and insecure inside.
6. At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.
7. You prefer a certain amount of change and variety and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.
8. You pride yourself as an independent thinker and do not accept others’ statements without satisfactory proof.
9. You have found it unwise to be too frank in revealing yourself to others.
10. At times you are extroverted, affable, sociable, while at other times you are introverted, wary, reserved.
11. Some of your aspirations tend to be pretty unrealistic.
12. Security is one of your major goals in life.”

This of course made me wonder what other general statements I could come up with that would somehow apply to the vast majority of people but that would sound a lot like a personal description.

Since this blog tends to center around psychology, I decided to narrow my scope and come up with statements that would function as a test for a made-up psychological condition I’ll call “General Suffering Disorder“, which can perhaps be loosely considered as some sort of ongoing combination of mild anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. I’m going for 30 statements right now, just off the top of my head…

Patient Survey: General Suffering Disorder (in adults)

(Circle each statement that applies to you)

1. For some reason, other adults seem much more adult-like than you.

2. You sometimes feel exhausted just by the thought of fairly normal activities.

3. You tend to feel like you want everyone and everything to just slow down, like life seems to move way too fast.

4. Having a few weeks off from your normal life – a few weeks of having no responsibilities or obligations to anyone, a period when you could just do nothing – sounds very appealing to you.

5. You feel very bored and uncomfortable when you have no external stimulation (when you don’t interact with someone, check your phone or computer, watch TV, etc)

6. You sometimes think you’d be better off living in a different location.

7. You’re not sure how much people genuinely like you.

8. Death is not an intense phobia of yours, but occasionally you get strong waves of fear about death.

9. You feel like you’ve come a long way personally, but you don’t feel quite as secure as you want to be in life… like you still have a ways to go to get where you really want to be.

10. You have a steadily decreasing desire to get out and socialize like you used to.

11. You feel really grateful for what you have, but your actions would generally indicate that you want things to be different.

12. You try not to get frustrated, and you get less frustrated than you used to, but you still feel really frustrated sometimes, and then you feel dumb afterward.

13. You feel like people basically respect you, but deep down you feel like a lot of people don’t really take you all that seriously.

14. You sometimes think about changing up your personality: you have at least a few personality traits you want to get rid of, and a few inhibited personality traits you want to tap into and exhibit a lot more.

15. You feel like you regularly have to accommodate other people more than you’d prefer.

16. It has occurred to you that just “checking out” socially and not making any extra effort with people anymore would make life so much easier.

17. Most people wouldn’t see you as insecure but, if you’re really being honest with yourself, you feel quite insecure a lot of the time (about your financial state, about how you look, etc).

18. You often feel overwhelmed by all the things going on in life, by all the things you’re “supposed” to be doing in adulthood but are not actively doing.

19. When out public, you sometimes feel like people are going to catch you off guard, and when they do it will be super uncomfortable.

20. In a way you feel like you’re stuck with certain family members or close friends, like you’re fully committed to them yet they’re really not a perfect fit for you, and you feel really bad about feeling like this.

21. It sometimes feels like you’re not allowed to express your emotions, like you’ll just be viewed as needy, unstable, weak or attention-seeking, and this leaves you feeling somewhat constricted, tense, and resentful.

22. At times, you have somewhat of a bitter feeling toward one or both of your parents when thinking about the past, and you feel bad about this.

23. You feel like you wish you would have made more of an effort with certain friends in your past.

24. When you reflect on your past, you sometimes feel incredibly stupid about how immaturely you acted.

25. You sometimes feel uncomfortable when thinking about various people of your past, and you don’t remember whether or not you may have unintentionally mistreated them or acted rudely or inappropriately, or said or did something really stupid in front of them.

26. You know you’re capable of much more than you actually do.

27. You don’t actively recall your own accomplishments, and the accomplishments you feel proud about generally don’t seem to improve your motivation and confidence as much as they probably should.

28. You sometimes feel like you don’t care at all about stuff you probably should care about it, and you also seem to care way more than you should about stuff that doesn’t really matter.

29. You don’t actually want all the things you’re actively pursuing in life – you consistently seek out things that are well beyond your actual needs.

30. You wish things were how they used to be – you wish life could be as easy or as fun as it was at a particular point in time in your past.

So there you have it. I’d be willing to bet, if you were being honest, you would have circled at least 15 of these! Which of course would indicate you have General Suffering Disorder 😉 (NOTE: Another term for General Suffering Disorder in adulthood is “Perfectly Normal”.)