Andrew Daddo is No Harry Houdini By Amanda on July 7, 2008 6:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)
There's this new show, see, on Ch.7 tomorrow night at 7.30pm The One: Search for Australia's Top
Cold Reader Psychic. I've attended a few of the studio tapings on account of a good friend of mine, Richard Saunders, is one of the judges. I met Richard through the Australian Skeptics and he has taken on the daunting task of being commercial TV token skeptical whipping boy for low rent reality show. Go, Richard! Join our Richard Saunders Fans Facebook page! So I am in the audience for episodes 2 and 4 and watched episode 5 filming from the green room and back of the studio yesterday.
h/t to ... someone for appropriate LOLcat. I forgets, soz.
Richard has done an excellent job with a very tough gig, and has managed to institute a few extra controls on the "tests" although even with that they barely rise above parlour game level (except for one which is just deeply full of FAIL on the crass test.) And yes there's a legitimate discussion to be had about doing more harm than good in legitimising the mystery-monging but these shows are going to happen anyway and in Richard they actually had someone capable of, under pressure, quickly breaking down what was happening and really revealing the workings of cold reading on the spot. Of course he only gets a few lines and the vast bulk of logical fallacies, utter non-sequiturs, post-hoc rationalisations and face-palm moments have to go unchallenged. But the lines he gets are good, although its all in the editing, I guess. I took lots of notes in the last two sessions I was at so I might make further comment once I see the edited version. Podblack blog has made a loose comment about live blooging the first show. I hope she does, that should be fun.
I didn't take any of Skeptico's Cold Reading Bingo cards but perhaps you can print out some to play along at home. I guarantee you odds vastly better than the local Lions club version. You can't lose, in fact.
In my time there I saw lots of readings and "challenges" but not a single inexplicable or even particularly impressive thing, I did see a lot of the standard psychological techniques done to varying degrees of inexpertness and the glorious laws of probability at work. Which doesn't mean it won't "make good TV." It was interesting although LONG to sit through an entire day of faffing about for a few minutes of film. That's the glamour of showbiz I guess.
On the other end of the scale of seriousness I've been reading Ray Hyman's The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research and it comes highly recommended.