General Question

aneedleinthehayy's avatar

How does horoscopes and astrology work?

Asked by aneedleinthehayy (1193 points ) March 9th, 2009

Is it some kind of universal, star and galaxy, position of the planets thing? Or is it just coincedence, all in your head? Or, is it possible that it’s just what time of year you’re born in, in relation to the weather and certain events that happen that time of year and it’s effect on your upraising and life experiences?
Do you believe in any of it? Why?
I’m a leo and apparently I love attention and myself. I also am creative, bossy and dominant, among plenty other traits.
For the most part, I find this true. Even other leo’s that I have met seem to fit this description. And my opinion is that its because we are born in the summer, a very active time of year, no school, time to enjoy being with friends and being yourself and doing what YOU want to do and not what your teachers tell you to do.

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28 Answers

toomuchcoffee911's avatar

Only a true Seer knows.

btko's avatar

To be brief: They don’t.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

The thing about most of those “predictions” and personality descriptions is that they are written to be so broad that they can apply to a large number of people in part or wholly. It’s done the same way that “psychics” are able to. When you read a horoscope prediction in the paper or whatnot, you will have a tendency to relate their broad descriptions to what has been happening in your life. For example, if your horoscope says that someone in your past will be making an appearance, you will think of any possible part of your life that would fit that description. It’s all about the broadness.

marinelife's avatar

How do they work? You probably won’t like it. It involves math. Here is a site that makes it easy.

The question is was it good math or science? No.

btko's avatar

A longer answer:

They don’t work because there is nothing substantial enough to work with. There are a few reasons why. Don’t get me wrong, it can be fun to read your “horoscope” and see what’s what. But if you read a little more closely you begin to notice that it is how it is written, not what is written.

In other words, you will read what you want to hear about yourself.

It’s also good to realise that the constellations don’t mean anything. They were arbitrarily chosen thousands of years ago based on current (for the time) legends and mythology. And considering there are different legends around the world, most cultures have their own unique sets of constellations.

In our western culture there are 88 constellations, which are great for mapping and pinpointing out stars as a star gazer, but little else.

Another point against astrology is the fact that even in the “west” the constellations have not been constant. Before the Roman times there were 11 constellations which the sun travelled through. The Romans wanted 12 so they changed the shapes somewhat. And in the 1930’s astronomers changed them again so now there are 13.

This is getting long, so i’ll wrap it up with one final note about the rotation axis of the earth also makes astrology questionable. It’s called the “precession of the equinoxes” whereby the earth wobbles on it’s axis which changes slightly the direction of the alignment with the sun. So the sun appears to travel through a different path along the sky.

For example, based on traditional astrology I would be an “Aries” because in the year 0000 (zero) on April 8th the sun would have been in Aries… but in 1983, when I was born, the sun was actually in Pisces due to the precession of the equinoxes.

It’s an interesting topic for sure, but I just can’t see it being valid.

ninjacolin's avatar

horoscopes are great. they absolutely work when they’re written well. the skill is called “Cold Reading.” and you can watch a great video about it here.

My opinion is that horoscopes are simply just good advice from one human to another. Well, the well written ones, anyway. They work just like old sayings: “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” or “Avoid confrontation with hot headed people.” Lol, this is just plain good advice, nothing to it.

The thing is that your zodiac sign has nothing to do with it. Just read ANY of them. It doesn’t matter. It’s all good stuff and age old wisdom that has been passed down through the years. If you’re dealing with any kind of social issue or problem at work, often you can glance over the horoscope to find some good advice that is applicable to your situation.

Not every horoscope will be relevant to you every day. But if you remember the advice, sooner or later you will find yourself in a situation where practicing those solutions can become helpful for you.

Bluefreedom's avatar

I’m not sure about all the intricacies of Astrology but I don’t think it works at all, really. When I actually take the time to read my horoscope somewhere, the information is inaccurate and even silly sometimes.

ninjacolin's avatar

it requires artistic ability to write one well. if the writer sucks, there’s nothing you can do.

but if the writer is clever enough.. consider the Pursuit of Happyness. That movie, I feel, was the greatest cold reading ever. The horoscope-esque morals of the story:
– It’s no good to swim against the current, focus on what you’re good at and happiness will come.
– Many hardships will befall you today. Don’t let them get you down, push through, your reward is waiting on the other side.

stuff like that. just plain old fashioned good advice that ANYONE can benefit from and ANYONE would be foolish not to take to heart.

dynamicduo's avatar

They don’t work. It’s confirmation bias, in the sense that you will apply any horoscope to your own situation, choosing to accept evidence that supports the theory that they are for you and ignoring evidence that discredits it.

Many studies have been done to show that horoscopes and astrology are not scientific. One of the most conclusive was a study done in the UK I believe where a large set of children born at the same time were contrasted at different ages in their life. The result was that they had totally different lives, whereas they should have had similar lives if their time and date of birth played any significance into their life’s events.

It’s some poor person writing random horoscopes each week. In fact they’re so formulaic that I assume a computer writes them.

SeventhSense's avatar

@ninjacolin
I agree with your sentiment and the best psychic/readers are actually just pretty good people persons and intuitive..not always the brightest but you actually like them and they’re fun to talk to. We like to believe that the world revolves around us.

DrBill's avatar

A few years ago while attending Cornell, we did a study of this for Psych class. Everyone was given a false reading (they were chosen at random, and none were true), but 98.3% said they were good readings and very accurate.

This is called a self-fulfilling prophecy. You belive it because you want to.

ninjacolin's avatar

I dunno, I don’t think that’s true, drbill.
It’s not that we WANT them to fit.. it’s that they actually DO fit with, in this case, 98% of people!!

If you can find value in a bit of advice.. you’re not wrong because you were able to find value in that advice. You found value because there WAS ACTUALLY value for you in that in that activity.

Your experiment, I would say, proves that everyone is dealing with related issues. Not that the reading is useless.

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@DrBill and @ninjacolin: I was in an neuropsych class, and we did the same thing. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy, as well as confirmation bias. We don’t necessarily want them to fit, but we are bound to look for things that match our experiences.

ninjacolin's avatar

but.. if we DO find something that matches our experiences.. doesn’t that mean that it matched our experiences?

TitsMcGhee's avatar

@ninjacolin: But we’re cherry picking by doing that, and probably twisting the prediction itself or our experience to fit.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I’m supposedly a Sagittarius, but I have absolutely nothing in common with what they’re supposed to be like…so horoscopes have never done anything for me…

wundayatta's avatar

Horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, tea reading, psychic reading, channeling—they all work the same way. You start with a broad outline of generic things, see which things the person responds to, hone in on them, makes some simple predictions (because people usually behave in fairly similar ways—if you don’t believe me, just look at all the relationship questions here), and then you think they have amazing psychic abilities.

I’ll bet there’s a person or two around here who says, “how did he know that? Is he psychic?” I’m not. I just use a lot of experience together with a good model of human behavior, and my predictions turn out fairly well. And, again, there’s that bias that people have. They want to believe, and so they take anything you say that sounds remotely familiar to you, and they twist it to be very accurate.

I’m afraid that these things generally appeal to people who have less of a sense of control over their lives. People who have been knocked around a bit, maybe abused, and who believe they can’t understand things that happen to them.

Sometimes people are doing it just for kicks. They do it as entertainment. Where I live, they were going to put them all out of business because they were misleading people, but they all put up signs saying this was just entertainment, and they were allowed to stay in business.

Anyway, if you want some real good information about you, you should come to me. I don’t charge much for the initial meeting, and my advice is very good!

kevinhardy's avatar

they provide helpful suggestions

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

The best way to test your horoscope is to cut them all out of whatever paper has the ones you feel are the most accurate, remove the top part that lists the title, i.e. leo, Virgo, etc, and put them all in a hat. Pull one out and read it, and odds are it will apply to you in some way.

They are all generic, and pretty much useless, unless you are really that gullible.

marinelife's avatar

IT DOESN’T WORK. Study

“This is because a group of European researchers say their study shows there is no evidence that there is any truth in star signs.

The team from Belgian and German Universities studied a total of 15,000 people.

They found that “in no cases did date of birth” or star signs “relate to individual differences or general intelligence”.”

MacBean's avatar

Here’s how it works:

Step one: Someone tells you “Something good or bad may or may not happen in your near or distant future” and makes it sound vaguely more specific than that.
Step two: You make it work if you want it to.

ninjacolin's avatar

from that article, Marina:

“BRIAN CLARK: Look, I think it gives people a lot of meaning. It gives people a lot of meaning because they are able to reflect on life.

I mean the zodiac itself means “the wheel of life” and all it is really is a model to understand the development of life, so it’s a very old psychology, if you will.”

fireside's avatar

I would agree with it being an old form of psychology, similar to the I Ching.

We also have to differentiate here between the horoscopes found in a paper and astrology which is the study of star formations and the influence of celestial bodies.

There is probably some truth to it, but it is a truth that has been obscured by the modern world. If the moon can influence tides and nature, isn’t is logical to assume that we could feel some effect? That effect is probably very slight and may not be noticeable anymore because of all the distractions of today.

I’ve heard that artificial lighting can change a woman’s menstruation cycle and that without lighting the cycle would be much more effected by the moon. So that would be evidence of human bodies changing due to the effects of celestial bodies.

So some form of ancient psychology that says today you may feel more anger than usual doesn’t seem harmful, but I would hesitate to plan my daily activities around any celestial tendencies since our bodies have far more invisible influences nowadays.

pathfinder's avatar

I have started to fallow the {horoscops}.TI is similar to the astrology.It has got an differences among.The {horoscops} is working at fivety percent.I guess.The astrology has the enchanted power witch studied a few people.{ I forgot the names,sorry}The thing is that those people has been hear at the public.What they say actually happened and more on,That led me to the focus that the star stuff is power full and works.{You know those people}There is an saying that all world listen to those people.

ponderinarf's avatar

Horoscopes “work” because ignorant people fall victim to the cacophony of mindless jargon. *I do not mean people who believe this are stupid, but they can be misguided by choice or not. If people keep buying it figuratively and literally, then horoscopes will continue to be sold in both senses of the word.

coffeecup's avatar

today i read my horoscope and i felt it was really relevant to me and i was very grateful to receive that message which someone composed (supposedly based on something to do with neptune)
i started to wonder, what were the chances i should read that?
and then i remembered that you cant explain everything
you just cant explain everything yet. dont discount ancient musings….they wont manifest to a tee in the realm of words, modern stats, studies and general logic
the planet supports our evolution in every way, maybe rest of the universe is also trying to help

raisedhand432's avatar

I have many thoughts on this subject, as I have devoted 10 years to the study of it, alongside its’ companions mythology, and religion. What I will do is explain the chain of events and thoughts as they happened and try to explain my viewpoint on this. There is also a study I have devised to test astrology that I am currently working on.

On April 2nd, 2001, I met a man named Nick, who was born May 21, 1979. During the first hour we spent together, I noticed that his manner was very similiar to mine, unnervingly so. At this point in my life, I did not think there was any validity to astrology or to much of anything really. I have always been extremely skeptical and a very left-brained, logical mind. Anyways, I asked Nick, “Are we the same or something?” I asked him what his birthday was at that moment, and the urge to do so was instinctual. His birthday was exactly four days before mine, which is May 25, 1979. I then, instinctually, shared my experience of losing my left eye at the age of 15. He then told me he had also lost an eye. I injured my left eye June 2, 1994 and he injured his right eye May 13, 1994. This prompted me to study astrology and see if our similiar birthdates was the reason we are so similiar.
I devoured books on traditional astrology and mythology and religion for the next few years. I noticed a few interesting things and had some intriguing thoughts in that period. First, in relation to Christianity, it seemed that the story of Jesus and his disciples was a sort of allegory representing the zodiac. There are a couple of reasons why I thought this. The main reason deals with the disciple Thomas. Thomas translates literally to “twin”. Thomas’s most memorable and significant role in the bible is when he demands to stick his finger into the wound of Jesus, hence the term “doubting Thomas”. From this, I deduced that Thomas is representative of the sign of Gemini, the twins, for two reasons. The first is obvious: because Thomas literally means twin. The second reason is because he says he won’t believe until he is given proof, which is like the traditional idea of the personality of Gemini(which is my sign), that of a logical, skeptical person. Next, I deduced that the character of Jesus is the other twin. Gemini, the twins, is associated with the archetypal character of Hermes or Mercury, who is the messenger of the gods. The archetype is also the son of god and a selfless character devoted to service and the delivery of a message. The next curious thing I realized deals with the virgin birth. It occurred to me that perhaps it had to do with the sign of Virgo, the virgin. I realized that if Jesus were conceived during the time of Virgo(August 21-September 22), that he would emerge nine months later as a Gemini, as a twin, as Mercury, as the messenger of God. The last thing I noted about the disciples was that John the Baptist is probably a representation of Aquarius the water bearer. Next I discovered the myth of Odin, the scandinavian equivelant of Mercury, Hermes, and Jesus. I read a story about how he sacrifices his eye at the well of Mimir for wisdom. This affected me in a profound way, because I felt like I was basically one of many versions of Hermes/Mercury/Odin/Jesus and that I had lost my eye, so that this knowledge would become clear to me and that I should deliver the message. However, do not judge me as a fanatic for this. I am just a man observing and living. I recognize my inability to know, and keep an objective stance. But, this really got me thinking about the purpose of religious literature and mythology. It seems plausible to me that these stories resulted from these ancient peoples knowledge of the existence of these patterns that we call astrology, and that the stories were a way of passing the information along. Lastly, in regards to ancient people and how they came about these ideas, I wonder if they may have actually been smarter in certain ways than we are today. Perhaps, their right-brains were more developed and they could actually see and understand the patterns of life on a higher level than we can now because their minds were not hindered by language based thought. They were more enveloped in direct experience and therefore may have been able to actually see the pattern, which brings me to the next period of my studies- the last 6 years.
From the moment I met Nick and began to wonder about whether there was any truth to astrology, I began to ask everyone I met and knew what their birthday was. I also would look up the birthdates of any person I might study, see on television, read a book by, etc..
Any person I am familiar with in any capacity, I know their birthdate. For the first few years, nothing out of the ordinary occurred. I just sort of collected the data in my mind, and started questioning and comparing. Does this virgo guy act like this virgo girl? etc…

Now, here is the MEAT of what I have to say about this. I started to notice physical patterns. I started to see that virgos had a certain shape to their eyes. I started noticing geminis talked and acted a certain way. Then, I started, on occasion, to know someone’s birthdate within a few days because they looked very similiar to someone else I knew. I guessed Neko Case’s birthdate in this manner, simply by looking at a picture. I have done this quite a few times, and it is starting to happen more frequently as the pattern is becoming clearer in my mind. At some point, I realized that the simple reason this had happened was because I knew everyone’s birthday. If everyone went by their birthdate as their name, then everyone would have seen this pattern I am becoming aware of a long time ago. It is strange for me though, because I have not met one single person who looks at this the same way I do. Everyone seems to fall into two camps: they are either fanatical, gullible followers of astrology that regurgitate info from books like it is a religion that is all worked out already, or they vehemently deny the possibility and scoff at it. I have felt alone and isolated with what I feel is knowledge that could change the world as we know it. So, I have spent the last year or two trying to figure a way to show what I see. I figured if I can observe these patterns, there must be a way to show these patterns to others scientifically. One day, it hit me.
I have designed a study that can show what I see. The study will look at sets of siblings. If a pair of brothers have the same parents, it seems that they should be almost identical, yet they rarely are. I attribute this to their birthdate. There are other reasons, of course, but I think the birthdate is the main reason. I have noticed that some signs are taller while others are shorter, so height will be the focus. Since I am looking at same-sex siblings, it removes the unwanted variables of race, different genetics, gender, etc… Virgos and Pisces are the apex of the hypothetical line while Gemini and Sagittarius are the trough or the shortest of the hypothetical line. To make it very simple to understand, the hypothesis is that a virgo brother will be taller than his gemini brother a huge percentage of the time, if not every time. I will link a picture of the hypothetical line if anyone is interested. I am in the midst of collecting data right now, which is actually the reason I came to this site. I have been looking for ways to collect data online and figured this community may be willing to take part since it is devoted to knowledge.
There are a few more thoughts I’d like to add about this subject before I finish. I think that it is a science that could be developed. I don’t think that all of traditional astrology is correct. I think much of it is flawed. For instance, I do not think that the more in-depth astrological charts have any validity. I simply look at the birthdate. I also think that the 30 day span of a sign is too broad, and that as we study people to figure out the reality of the pattern, we can break it down into smaller increments, like 5 day spans. I also don’t go for the idea that it is causal. I think that the movement of the planets and everything is what time really is and that time and birthdates are just symbols we use to understand it, but the reality of it is understood without those symbols. To quote Bob Dylan, “Really the truth is just a plain picture”. I also think that we should learn about astrology from people, and not learn about people from astrology. Basically, it is completely undeveloped, though there is some truth in the ground plans the ancients laid out for us. We are the reality of it though, and that is where the answers will come from: the study of the people in correlation with time.

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