Psychology and Astrology
Psychology and Astrology(religion, spiritualism, and occult)
Because so much of astrology—at least as it is currently practiced—is psychological, the relationship between psychology and astrology is complex. Examined here are some of the issues that psychological researchers have addressed when questioning the validity of astrology.
In the September 1973 issue of the Journal of Psychology, Robert J. Pellegrini noted significant correlations between people’s sun sign and their score on the California Psychological Inventory’s femininity scale. In March 1975, the same journal published another article by Pellegrini in which he noted that the highest femininity scores in the 1973 study corresponded with the consecutive signs from Leo through Capricorn, a correlation that does not correspond with the traditional astrological characterization of every other sign as feminine. Later studies failed to confirm Pellegrini’s original findings.
In a 1978 Journal of Social Psychology article, Jeff Mayo and others found correlations between people’s sun sign and their score on a measure of introversion and extroversion. This study found that, congruent with what one might anticipate from astrological tradition, even-numbered signs (Aries, Gemini, etc.) were more extroverted than odd-numbered signs (Taurus, Cancer, etc.). Most later studies failed to confirm Mayo’s study, with the exception of one by Jan J. Van Rooij and others in the May 1988 issue of the Journal of Psychology, which successfully replicated the Mayo article.
The various studies by Françoise and Michel Gauquelin dealt with in the essay on vocational astrology have successfully demonstrated significant correlations between occupation and the positions of certain planets at birth. Most studies of sun signs have failed to find statistically significant correlations between sun signs and professions, although there was a series that appeared in the Guardian, a British newspaper, in 1984 that showed correlations from census data. A disingenuous critique published in the Skeptical Inquirer the next year attempted to explain away the Guardian study as resulting from the imputed tendency of people to pick professions based on a prior knowledge of the professions associated with their sun signs.
Belief in Astrology
An interesting line of research that several different researchers have pursued is the correlation between belief in astrology and certain other personality traits, although most such studies are undertaken to demonstrate that “believers” in the science of the stars are weak or defective in some way. Thus, for example, in February 1980, the Journal of Social Psychology published an article by Ruth H. Sosis and others that found that a belief in fate was correlated with a belief in astrology. They also found that females were more likely to believe in astrology than males. In 1982, the journal Personality and Individual Difference published an article by G. A. Tyson that hypothesized a correlation between astrological clients and stressful social roles. And in 1983, the same journal published an article reporting a study by Michael Startup that found no signs of neuroticism in astrology students, although it did find correlations between astrology students and psychology students.
Other interesting studies have appeared both within and outside mainstream academic psychology. For example, in April 1988, the journal Perceptual and Motor Skills published a study by Steven Stack and David Lester that found a correlation between suicide ideation and people born under the sign Pisces (a correlation that one would have anticipated from traditional astrology). Another interesting piece was a 1973 study by John Newmeyer and Steven Anderson that found Geminis, Virgos, and Aquarians most likely to be heroin abusers, and Scorpios and Capricorns least likely.
Vernon Clark Administers Psychological Tests
The studies conducted by the American psychologist Vernon Clark belong in a class by themselves. In 1959, he designed three tests that were given to 50 astrologers. In the first, astrologers were asked to match the natal charts of 10 people with 10 short biographies that highlighted career, marriage, medical history, and hobbies. All subjects were well established in their chosen profession.
In the second, astrologers were asked, in 10 instances, to match one of two charts with a brief case history. They were not informed that one of each pair was an actual horoscope and the other a chart cast for a random place and time. In the third, astrologers were asked to distinguish natal charts for high-IQ people from charts of victims of brain damage. As a control group, the same tests were given to psychologists and social workers with no background in astrology.
In all three tests, the accuracy of the astrologers was statistically significant. In comparison, the accuracy of the control groups was never more than what would be expected from random chance. Clark’s first and second tests, with some variations, were also successfully conducted by both Zipporah Dobyns and Joseph Ernest Vidmar in the 1970s.
Clark’s work was important for providing a suggestive model from which to design other experiments. This model has been referred to as holistic because of the way in which it is able to bring the entire astrological chart into the test. Other approaches, such as the aforementioned studies, isolate one factor, such as the sun sign, and ignore other influences.