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Confirmation bias

(We’ll get to the Pluto lines soon, if you were waiting for that — since Pluto is such an important planet).

When giving reasons, what I usually tell clients is something called the “80 percent rule.” 80 percent of what is predicted to come true at a given (new) location will come true. 80 percent is not 100 percent, and there may (or may not) be good reasons for some of that — e.g. there may be a stronger astrological influence contradicting the one you’re looking, “canceling it out.” That would be the rational conclusion we might make.

But rationalism is not empiricism, and astrology does depend on empiricism — we look for evidence of something rather than try to discern cause-and-effect with what logically might follow from something. Logically, we wouldn’t expect planets to project perpendicularly onto the ecliptic (especially with Pluto, a planet that is often way off the ecliptic). But it appears quite certain that they do.

The 80 percent applies to my move, as well — and I’m going to delineate at least four situations where it does, and at least one situation where it doesn’t. I’m going to focus on my midpoint report for one thing.

First, one that doesn’t. Here where I live now, I have a Mars as a midpoint between Pluto and my relocated Midheaven. It’s a direct midpiont (180 degrees), with a 1.2 degree orb. So, being direct, it should be pretty strong. Parker’s Astrology says,

  • The need to be in a powerful position.  The armed forces.  Bravery.

It’s unclear to me whether I need to be in a powerful position here. I suspect that I don’t, although there could be many reasons for that — 1st house Libra Jupiter comes to mind, and that may or may not be true. “The armed forces” is a complete non-starter for me, although maybe it’s because my personality is massively unsuitable for the military to begin with. Bravery — I’m not particularly aware of this happening here.

Let me list four that do apply.

  • Jupiter = Saturn/Ascendant (90, 0.9) – The tendency to “bury the head in the sand”, ignoring problems.
  • Neptune = Moon/Midheaven (45, 0.6) – Difficulty in keeping in touch with the rat race.  Tendency to worry extensively over work/career.
  • Midheaven = Jupiter/Ascendant (90, 1.2) – A psychologically well-integrated individual.  Balance is kept between personal life and ambitions and aspirations.  An optimistic outlook.
  • Moon = Venus/Midheaven (90, 0.2) – The individual will be kind and warm-hearted and have a flair for caring.  Moodiness could cause difficulties with colleagues.  Sometimes an indication of fame.

I tried to pick two “positive” ones and two “negative” ones. All of it is dead-on (for this location).

Anyway, enough about me. I do this same midpoint analysis as part of a consultation, so it ends up in a report, if you’re interested in a consultation. I have more to say about that, a little later in this article.

Astrology has been accused of running — some would even say entirely — on “confirmation bias.” So, what is that? Let’s look at the Wikipedia definition:

  • Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one’s prior beliefs or values.”

It’s true. There is a huge risk of an astrological consultation being laced with confirmation bias on the part of a client — or even someone doing it to themselves. The following comes from a professor of psychology at Cornell University, writing in the New York Times in 2015:

  • “Some of our most pronounced intellectual weaknesses are the by-product of our greatest intellectual strengths. Many perceptual illusions, for example, are the result of the brain’s remarkable facility for organizing incoming sensations into meaningful units.
  • “The widespread acceptance of astrological claims, although misguided in light of empirical evidence on the subject, can likewise be traced to one of the mind’s most remarkable faculties. The brain’s job is to make sense of the world, and it does so — easily, rapidly and generally accurately — by finding connections between things.
  • “And those connections can be easy to find. If you know a bit about astrology and learn that a friend is a Libra, you may identify, automatically and effortlessly, parts of your friend’s personality that are said to be characteristic of Libras. Most people have multifaceted personalities and Libras are thought to have a variety of traits, so some notable matches are inevitable.”

It goes on, of course — I’m tempted to paste more here, but you get the idea. You can just Google “confirmation bias astrology” if you want to find it. This is a very typical take, and, to engage in a bit of hyperbole and wit, makes me glad that I didn’t get into any of the Ivy League schools that I applied to, so long ago. I certainly would find it tedious and oppressive to attend his class, knowing what I know now.

The fact that it was written by someone so high up on the totem pole begs the question. Many astrology adherents do not have college degrees, although some do. There are even fewer astrology adherents among those with advanced degrees, the credentialed class. When I put together my business plan for The Evening Shift Astrology, I specifically wrote that I would market my services for those with a variety of levels of education, but the median point would be “some college.” College degrees were welcome, but also those with associate degrees or the high school educated.

(Full disclosure: In terms of accredited, traditional schools, I have a B.A. in Liberal Studies which I achieved relatively late in life, nine years ago. Graduate school appealed to me — I have interests in sociology, economics, theology/divinity — and on a more directly practical level, an M.A. in psychology or counseling is supposed to be what makes an astrologer better at what they do. And I considered library science a couple of years ago. The only thing stopping me is the expense. The costs of higher education are ridiculous and unjust — if you’re a Boomer, have some appreciation or gratitude about how cheap education was for you.)

There is a good deal of snobbery going on here, and this has been a bit of a digression, since I was looking for some easy-to-find examples of someone talking about confirmation bias in astrology. In our astrological program that ended last year, David Cochrane addressed “confirmation bias” about a dozen times and tried to prepare us to avoid situations where the client would just agree with what we were telling them because they were looking for it, or it said something positive about them that they wanted to believe. There is a real danger here and every astrologer who’s practicing has to address it fully and be completely aware (and self aware) about what’s going on here.

(This is also a bit of a digression, but because David Cochrane is a researcher, he has come up with a multitude of research practices that allow him to come up with more accurate causation. One of these is “extreme case sampling.” For example, if you wanted to learn about the characteristics of Aquarius, look at the famous people with the strongest, most extreme amount of Aquarius — the most planets, the most inner planets in Aquarius. There are people out there with seven planets in Aquarius! Find out about them!)

What I try to do is this. When I read an influence to someone, like any of the midpoints I mentioned above, I tell them to really look in their own self and ask, “Is this really true?” When I effectively tell someone something about themselves, I ask, “How does this land?” (Do not just agree with me, please.) Some clients are naturally skeptical. In a way, they are the best clients to have.

It helps if the client is self-aware. And it helps if the astrologer is self-aware, but also ethically aware. Many astrologers because experts (and are effective in general) because of their high levels of intuition, but always ask the client to be a honest about themselves as possible.

By David Muir

David Muir recieved his PAC as a 2020 graduate of the Avalon School in Vibrational Astrology. He has been a practicing astrologer having studied astrology since 1997. He specializes in relocation astrology, particularly in terms of how both one's character and external influences change in a new location. He has interests in compatibility, and just generally “getting the necessary information out there for you,” which can entail personology as well as different interpretations in general. David writes a 2x/weekly blog in both relocation astrology and other astrological topics of interest, on relocationastrology.guide.

David received a BA from Carlow University in 2011 with concentrations in philosophy, writing, and political science. He does a 2x/month radio show and has lived in Denver, CO since 2016.

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