Can You Trust Your Daily Horoscope?
Chances are, you fall somewhere on the spectrum between believing daily horoscopes can accurately and specifically predict the future and believing they’re nothing but nonsense. Wherever you land on this spectrum, you’ve likely taken a look at your Cancer daily horoscope, or a daily horoscope for whatever your Zodiac sign is.
But can you trust your daily horoscope as a source of information or inspiration?
The Hard Facts
Daily horoscopes are based on astrology, a system of beliefs that suggest there’s a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events or characteristics of the people on Earth. Astrological forecasts rely on real planets, constellations, and other celestial bodies, and some people treat it as though it is a science. However, astrology is not scientific for a few different reasons. For example, daily horoscopes are not considered “testable,” a key requirement of scientific ideas, because they’re often written in a way that makes them open to interpretation. Accordingly, whether they’re “right” or “wrong” is a subjective matter, and one that can’t be subjected to scientific scrutiny.
You should also be aware that daily horoscopes are written by people, so they may vary in specificity, accuracy, or other properties based on the person writing them. Daily horoscope writers tend to be very familiar with astrology, and base their writing on these astrological phenomena.
The Power of Self-Fulfilling Prophecy (and Confirmation Bias)
Some daily horoscope readers may believe their horoscopes are eerily accurate due to the self-fulfilling prophecy effect, or confirmation bias, or both. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction or piece of information that somehow causes itself to become true. For example, if you believe your upcoming public presentation will go well, you’ll feel more confident, which in turn will help you perform better, thus making your belief true. Confirmation bias is disproportionately weighing or seeking out evidence that confirms or supports your existing beliefs. For example, if you believe a politician is bad at their job, you’ll be more likely to seek out and value sources of information that confirm their faults, while ignoring or devaluing sources that support them.
Let’s say your daily horoscope states that today will be dangerously unlucky for you. You might be inclined to stay at home and worry about the possibility of bad luck. That extra anxiety could put you in a bad mood and encourage you to make weaker decisions, which in turn could result in bad things happening in your surroundings, thus becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. In retrospect, you might think about all the bad things that happened throughout the day (while ignoring the good things), which can persuade you that your entire day was unlucky.
The Ambiguous Nature of Horoscopes
Daily horoscopes are sometimes written with intentional ambiguity. They speak in general terms so they could feasibly be applied to anyone, and so that no person can accuse the horoscope of being woefully inaccurate. While critics of daily horoscopes might use this as a point of contention, explaining that such ambiguity couldn’t possibly be valuable, this ambiguity can be a source of value.
Ambiguous horoscopes put the burden of interpretation on the reader. If they’re well-written, they can serve as a kind of psychological mirror; they challenge you to be introspective and think about the various aspects of your life. For example, if a daily horoscope mentions needing a change in your life, you could interpret that as needing a change in your job, in your relationships, in your daily habits, or anything else; it forces you to consider the elements of your life that require your attention, and therefore has value. It almost works like a piece of abstract art, with its interpretation bearing a more significant impact on your life.
We also can’t neglect the entertainment value of daily horoscopes. Regardless of how you feel about them personally, you can’t deny that it’s fun to find an excerpt of text that was specifically written for people with your sign. For many people, it’s part of a daily ritual, and a positive start to the day, no matter where on the spectrum from positive to negative the horoscope turns out to be.
The Bottom Line
Daily horoscopes shouldn’t be taken as hard science, but they’re not intended to be. If you try to use horoscopes to predict the future or accurately describe your life, specifically, it’s going to hurt you in the long run. However, if you use daily horoscopes as a form of entertainment or part of a daily ritual, there’s significant value to enjoy; the ambiguity of their writing and their self-fulfilling power can lead you to greater introspection, and therefore greater control of your life. Of course, not everyone will see or appreciate this value equally, so do whatever feels best to you.