American circus entertainer P. T. Barnum is often credited with the statement "there's a sucker born every minute". I was talking about another famous deputed phrase of P. T. Barnum a few months ago, "there's no such thing as bad publicity," in reference to Marketing 101 and how Pepsi succeeded. In my remarks about how Pepsi succeeded a photo that appears to show P. T. Barnum with the quote "There's no such thing as bad publicity" was attached to my posting.
Being an information geek I was curious to learn the origin of the photo of P. T. Barnum. Doing a quick search of the image on Google quickly showed that the photo was not P. T. Barnum but famous psychologist Bertram R. Forer.
So if the image I think is P. T. Barnum is actually Bertram R. Forer, I ask Google for an image of P. T. Barnum. But now I am confused, as I use Google to search on a photo of P. T. Barnum they look an awful lot like the same photos identified as Bertram R. Forer.
Bertram R. Forer's connection to P. T. Barnum
In 1948 psychologist Bertram R. Forer gave a psychology test to 39 of his psychology students. Similar to the P. T. Barnum statement "there's a sucker born every minute" Forer was looking to prove that when assessment statements are vague people read their own meaning into the statements. Basically Forer was trying to show that people are easily tricked or manipulated into believing vague things.
But Forer did not connect his theories to circus showman Phineas Taylor Barnum. The term "Barnum effect" referring to the the work of Forer was coined in 1956 by American psychologist Paul Meehl in his essay "Wanted A Good Cookbook".
Truth by consensus lies
In the world of Questy websites we have been critical of Google claims that "Democracy on the web works." The phrase "truth by consensus" describes the philosophical theory of taking statements to be true simply because people generally agree upon them.
I am cynical about the artificial intelligence of the internet, as I find examples of where truth by consensus is really a lie. Should I be reasonably certain that most of the photos Google identified as P. T. Barnum are accurate? If that is true, at this point I am not sure that I have found an accurate photo of famous psychologist Bertram R. Forer.
The more examples I find of truth by consensus like this mis-attributed photo of P. T. Barnum to Bertram R. Forer illustrates that there is a sucker born every minute and they are using Google to find the answers to their questions.
Truth by consensus and the myths and legends created by the internet | http://questy.com/content/truth-consensus-and-myths-and-legends-created-...
We've Got Something for Everyone: The Barnum Effect | https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/sideways-view/201411/weve-got-somet...
F is for Bertram Forer | http://shootingparrots.co.uk/2017/02/15/f-is-for-bertram-forer/
P. T. Barnum | http://www.nndb.com/people/121/000056950/