8 Psychic Cold Reading Techniques & Tricks Used by Fake Psychics and Mediums

Psychic Cold Reading Techniques

Photo: flickr/Low Res

Psychics employ a vast array of methods to help clients get the answers and insight they’re searching for from the spiritual realms.

From palm readings to tarot decks to relying on their heightened powers of intuition, and beyond, psychics have plenty of tools to work with.

One method that some psychics use to provide insight to clients has far less to do with spiritual interaction, instead geared towards their personal perception of the client’s reaction and their ability to leverage vague predictions on the basis of those reactions.

Cold reading techniques have sometimes given legitimate psychics and clairvoyants a bad rap, with some clients believing that all mediums use such tactics across the board.

In reality, cold reading is a series of tricks readers can use to give the impression they have acquired new evidence or information about someone when really they are studying the subject and gauging the reading based on the subject’s reaction.

Updated 2/11/2020

8 Ways Fake Psychics Use Cold Reading to Get Info About You

Some elements a psychic might study to do cold reading include an individual’s:

  • Body language
  • Gender
  • Way of speaking
  • Appearance (such as clothing, hair, makeup, etc.)

Keep reading for the top psychic mind tricks used by fakes and phonies, so you can pinpoint them with ease.

1) Shotgunning

The first of the psychic cold reading techniques a fraudster may rely upon are known as shotgun statements.

A reader can formulate claims based on information that is so general; it is more likely than not that something will be relevant to the client.

Shotgun statements acquired this title because a shotgun fires a bunch of pellets rather than a single shot, so the shooter is pretty likely to hit the target at some point.

These claims are incredibly vague and generalized, which means the psychic could be a grand success with the audience.

The psychic will make sure the declarations aren’t too apparently vague but pointed enough that some individuals will remain convinced.

Common statements like this include things like:

“You lost someone recently,”


“An aspect of your life has changed recently.”

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2) Barnum Statements

Nicknamed so for PT Barnum, Barnum statements are simple tricks where the psychic’s assertions seem specific and personal, but in reality, could apply to a large group of individuals.

false barnum statements

Psychics that use these types of statements depend on larger audiences believing what they have to say so that they fill in the obvious blanks of details of their own volition.

It’s similar to horoscopes, in that readers are ready and willing to believe them, so they look for events and traits in their own lives to make the reading resonate more with them.

The primary difference between standard cold reading and a horoscope is that there is a certain level of feedback involved in a cold reading.

The psychic can test the waters with very broad proclamations to gauge the audience reaction, then use that response as a measuring stick for how to proceed next.

The claims are very open-ended, so it is almost certain the psychic can narrow their approach down for greater accuracy after that initial audience feedback.

What’s interesting about Barnum statements (or Forer statements as they are also known), is that they look as if they could apply to a specific person when they could really apply to everyone in the room.

Studies show that people more easily accept statements if they believe they apply to them in particular.

Also, if the client accepts these assumptions as truth, their overall faith in the psychic increases.

Psychics well-versed in using Forer statements not only use common assertions that could apply universally but curate their own list which they can adjust based on the specific categories of subjects.

Very common examples include the following:

  • “You tend to get a bit anxious in new or unknown social settings.”
  • “You have great potential but much of it is still unused.”
  • “You have told white lies in the past to spare someone else’s feelings.”
  • “You have a deep need to receive the recognition and approval of others.”
  • “You were a victim of burglary or theft previously.”

3) Summarizing and Reusing

The Summarizing and Reusing series of cold reading mind tricks is when a medium takes information that the client has already offered during the session and reuses it for later predictions.

For example, if the psychic has already begun to speak with the client, they can start the session with some Forer statements and listen to what the subject has to say.

The psychic might mention a few specific pieces of information or offer inferences, but their assertions will likely be vague at best.

With this technique, the psychic won’t comment on the piece of information when the client first mentions it.

Instead, the psychic will file the information away for later use in the session.

When the time is right, the psychic will bring the information back into the open and watch as the client responds in shock and awe at the “powerful” intuition of the reader.

4) Encouraging You to Reveal Private Details

One of the oldest psychic tricks in the book is to use interpersonal skills to encourage a client to reveal important information and details about their personal life.

woman fortune teller

Photo: flickr/David Cudworth

The majority of people who visit a psychic do so of their own volition because they are seeking guidance and answers to life’s challenging questions.

Because of this, subjects are typically quite open and cooperative, making it easy for cold readers to string them along.

The fake psychic or medium will start the session by telling the client that the first message they receive could be unclear.

They will further explain that with assistance from the client, they can discern the spiritual message together.

If a client agrees to such a proposal, the cold reader knows they will have a cooperative audience.

After that, the psychic could say something similar to, “I’m sensing a name that begins with the letter L—perhaps something related to your father, maybe they knew him.

Perhaps they’re on your father’s side of the family?”

You can probably see where this is going.

Next, the psychic might say something like:

“I might require some help from you here. Oh, it was your father’s mother—it’s starting to make sense. I knew it was related to a father. Things are becoming clearer.”

With this kind of a session, once the reading is completed, the client has been doing more work than the psychic!

The subject could easily walk away with the same questions and no additional knowledge than they had prior to the reading.

This type of psychic cold reading is often effective because clients are so ready and willing to believe the psychic that it doesn’t occur to them that they answered most of their queries on their own.

5) Being Overly Vague

On occasion, a psychic who uses cold reading techniques will put out a very vague statement that just doesn’t stick, even as general as it is.

If this occurs, the reader will start backtracking to compensate for the obvious error they have just made.

This is how psychics trick you but sound believable the entire time.

For example, if a psychic purports to be communicating with the client’s aunt, but finds out the aunt is actually still living, they can course correct and say it must be a person who had a close relationship with the aunt.

Likewise, a psychic could claim that the subject is about to make a significant life decision, but finds out that this is actually not the case.

The cold reader would then backtrack saying it appears they made a major decision earlier in the year or their life will be changing soon.

By adhering to vague claims and leading questions, claiming that the spirit world isn’t communicating very clearly, the psychic can give the appearance that they are highly knowledgable and skilled, even if they are making it all up.

6) Reading Your Facial Expressions

Psychics who are skilled in giving a cold reading have a distinct advantage in the case of in-person sessions.

The psychic can simply read the reaction of the client as the session progresses, with even small reactions hinting at important pieces of information.

psychic tricks

Photo: flickr/Raul Suarez

If you’ve ever seen a psychic and witnessed them talking very slowly, this may be because they’re using sneaky tricks and techniques.

The delay is not because the spiritual world is slow in relaying information to the reader, but because the psychic is waiting to see how the client responds each time they make a statement.

Even if the subject isn’t speaking, the psychic can use the client’s reactions or corrections to adjust course as they go along.

Alterations in the subject’s facial expression and body language are clues cold readers use to assess whether they are on track.

For instance, if the medium says something during the session that resonates or makes sense to the client, the subject might nod in assent or smile.

Once the psychic says what the client has been waiting to hear, the subject will react.

The psychic then picks up on that reaction to progress the reading.

7) Searching for “Tells” That Reveal Critical Information

People often don’t realize how easily they reveal information about themselves without saying a solitary word.

For instance, if the client is wearing a wedding band, this is a “tell”, meaning it shows that they are in a committed relationship and possess a certain level of life experience as a married person.

If the subject leans in when the psychic is conducting the reading, this indicates that you are ready and eager to believe whatever the reader has to say.

Psychics who cold read are skilled in picking up these subtle clues swiftly and using them to their advantage.

In fact, you can learn quite a lot about someone just by observing things like their clothing, behavior, patterns of speech, and so forth.

Fraudulent psychics do it 10 times better than most of us, but with ongoing practice, anyone can acquire this skill.

8) They Research You Beforehand

One final thing you need to know about cold reading is that the most skillful and adept cold readers really do their homework to perfect their skill and draw the subject in.

Many psychics learn everything there is to know about their client before the session ever starts.

For instance, if the reader is working with a large group of individuals or an audience, this pre-session research is even simpler.

fake psychic

Photo: flickr/Chris Willson

Many readers working with groups utilize a basic technique to select the person who will be the subject of their focus ahead of time.

After that, the psychic has loads of time to keep an eye out for clues and information that will help them assess the type of person they’re dealing with and the direction they ought to move the reading in.

Sometimes, the psychic will even get a conversation going between their chosen subject and another individual in the audience.

Then, by paying close attention to the conversation that ensues, the psychic can acquire plenty of information to leverage during the reading.

If the psychic decides to do a demonstration, they typically select their chosen subject before they ever bring up their “psychic abilities.”

With the advancements in modern technology, these cold readers can even log onto their social media account and research the subject.

Just a few minutes on the subject’s social media account and the psychic could have plenty of information about the individual besides their name, such as their relationship status.

In this way, psychics can acquire what would otherwise be an astounding amount of information on a subject in advance of the reading, so that once the session rolls around, their so-called powers of intuition delight and stun the audience.

Whatever the case may be, a little time spent on Google before the reading often not only gets the job done but actually convinces the subject that they are in the presence of a master psychic.

Parting Words

There are a lot of tricks that fake psychics use to gain your confidence and give you answers.

Now that you know what to look out for, you’ll be better prepared to avoid the phonies.

But what if you want to chat with a real psychic or medium?

Someone that you can trust who A) won’t use cold reading tricks and B) will give you an accurate reading?

Well, I’m happy to say that there are legit psychics out there.

You just have to know where to look – and right now you’re in exactly the right place.

After a lot of trial and error I’ve found what I consider to be the premium psychics online, by phone, and those for love readings.

Here are my lists of authentic psychics I recommend you check out: