Brow Beat

John Oliver Exposes the Tricks Psychics Use to Exploit Vulnerable People

If I’ve learned anything from Psych, it’s that psychics are just charismatic liars who drive around in blue Toyotas solving mysteries with their childhood best friends. But don’t take my word for it. On a new episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver exposes the methods that psychics use to convince others they’re communing with the afterlife, such as “hot reading” and “cold reading.” He also argues that even when a psychic is just telling someone that a dead relative loves them, they—and the talk show hosts who enable them—are contributing to an industry that exploits the vulnerable for profit.


“I would argue that, at best, it is reckless for a stranger to take a stab at ventriloquizing the dead,” Oliver points out. “Loss is complicated, and mourning doesn’t look the same for everyone. But at worst, when psychic abilities are presented as authentic, it emboldens a vast underworld of unscrupulous vultures more than happy to make money by offering an open line to the afterlife as well as many other bullshit services.”

If that makes you mad, you can at least take some comfort in watching clip after clip of psychics getting it just plain wrong. Shawn Spencer would never be so sloppy.

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