by Sara Pierce
For thousands of years, people have widely accepted the extraordinary belief that is astrology. Astrology is the correlation of matching traits and life events to the position of the sun and astronomical objects upon the exact time of your birth[i]. Many different types of astrology exist, dependent on the individual culture in which it develops. Though used extensively in ancient times beginning with the Babylonians, it is still often practiced today in an attempt to predict the future or understand one’s self and interpersonal relationships more effectively. Analyzing one’s natal chart, a chart outlining the position of all the astronomical objects in the solar system at the time of a person’s birth, reveals your personal astrological signs[ii]. These signs are a tangible description that astrologists use to correlate with traits or circumstances.
It is easy for confirmation bias to play a role in studying astrology. Descriptions tend to be general and could be applied in many different ways with people, which makes it easier for a hit to be experienced rather than a miss. Astrologists and those who follow it tend to embrace and internalize the descriptions in a way that fits them best. Any cognitive dissonance that may arise through descriptions that don’t seem to fit can be solved by pointing to the alternative astrological signs that a person holds, other than the standard sun sign. Astrology may also establish a false sense of control in its claims of being able to properly interpret ourselves and our surroundings. Although there is little factual basis for astrology, it is easy to get caught up in this false sense.
Despite a lack of a known mechanism of action that doesn’t contradict basic scientific principles, it has been argued that a lack of a proper mechanism does not necessarily act as a justification for dismissal[iii]. Lodestone compasses were used successfully for centuries before Earth’s geomagnetic field was understood. Despite an understood mechanism of action for so long, these compasses were relied upon for navigation. Though this can be considered a valid point in favor of astrology, the argument falls apart when one looks at the results of experimental testing to see if astrology can be considered truly reliable. One such experiment was carried out by Shawn Carlson in the early 1980s[iv]. In this double-blind experiment, highly esteemed astrologers were tested to see if they could correctly assign the proper natal chart to a subject based on their respective personality traits. Specifically, these astrologists were being examined to see if they could correctly assign the individual natal chart at a significantly higher rate than by chance alone. The results of this study showed that respected astrologists failed to succeed at assigning the correct chart to the subject at a rate higher than chance. Not only is there an unknown mechanism of action by which astrology operates, but it is highly unlikely that there is a mechanism at all to be discovered.
Because of its deeply rich history, the use of astrology has been observed all over the world. Regardless of cultural background, the belief that the time of one’s birth has a role in who you are has connected people in all walks of life. While evidence has been shown that astrology does not work in interpreting the world around us, it still is heavily engrained in modern culture. Perhaps one of the reasons why astrology still continues is because of an appeal to tradition. Because this field has lasted for so long, people are willing to more readily accept its claims without much scrutiny. Because it is such a widely accepted phenomenon, astrology is frequented in the media, notably used as a placeholder for quickly explaining the character’s personality. The portrayal of astrology within various forms of media exposes developing generations to a modernized take on an ancient belief. The commonplace use of astrological archetypes and the widespread appreciation of the belief have contributed to its continual popularity.
In short, astrology continues to exist despite a lack of working evidence. Because the traits of the astrological signs are so generalized, it is not difficult for almost anybody to connect an easily dismissible belief into their personal life. Even though astrologists accept that this phenomenon does not have a known mechanism of action and has been shown to be no better than chance, they still argue in saying that there is a causational relationship between one’s natal chart and their destined personality. With such a dedicated international following, no matter how varying from culture to culture, astrology has remained ever present throughout history.