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palm reading

In a nutshell: Palm reading is a kind of fortune telling by reading the lines on a person's hands. Scientists don't think you can tell much about a person's future by the lines on her hands.

palm for palm readingPalm reading (also called palmistry is telling fortunes from the lines, marks, and patterns on the hands, especially the palms.

Palm reading was practiced in ancient India, China, and Egypt. The first book on palm reading came out about 600 years ago.

Palm readers name the various lines on your hand as the life line, the head line, the heart line, and so on. The life line supposedly shows physical health and how long you'll live, the head line shows your brain power, and the heart line shows your emotions.

Some palm readers say that creative people have fan-shaped hands and sensitive people have narrow, pointy fingers and fleshy palms.

Although you can tell a lot about a person by looking at his or her hands, the science doesn't favor the idea that you can tell whether you will inherit money or find your true love from the lines or marks on your hands. If the lines on a person's hands match up with anything about her personality, the science of genetics would find it. Palm reading was invented long before the science of genetics was around.

I know a man who helped pay his way through college by reading palms. Dr. Ray Hyman then went on to become a psychology professor at a university.

Ray began reading palms when he was a teenager as a way to make money. He read some books and learned that people like to be told certain things about money, their health, travels that might happen, and what the future held in store for them. What kind of job would they have? Would they marry? How many children would they have? That kind of thing.

When Ray started doing palm reading, he didn't believe any of it. But he got such great praise from those who came to him that he started to believe that maybe you could tell things about a person's personality and future by lines on their hands. He told one of his teachers about this and the teacher told him to try an experiment. Tell the people the opposite of what the books say and see what happens. Ray wrote: "To my surprise and horror my readings were just as successful as ever." He then began studying what kinds of things make people believe in palm readers, psychics, astrologers, and others who claim to be able to read the future. Ray became an expert on what is called cold reading, figuring out what to say to total strangers to make them think you know everything about them.

When you get older, you might want to read the entries on cold reading and subjective validation in The Skeptic's Dictionary. Who knows? Maybe you'll be the next Ray Hyman!

Last updated 27-Nov-2012

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