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Palm reading (Chirology) describes an esoteric method of recognizing the characteristics and fate of a person from the shape of the hand, such as the length of the fingers, the ball of the finger and the fingernails. The hand lines in the ball of the hand are particularly important. Palmistry is only a part of physiognomics, i.e. the idea of determining one's fate and traits based on the external characteristics of a person. Among other things, the length and shape of the nose, the width of the forehead and the size of the ears are used.
Chirology - the most important facts
- Palmistry is an esoteric method that draws conclusions about the character and characteristics of a person from hand lines, finger shapes and so on.
- Chirology has existed since ancient times and is one of the magical pre-scientific practices with which our ancestors explained the world to them.
- Chirology is part of physiognomics, which is supposed to recognize the character of a person through external characteristics.
- Physiognomics played a fateful role in "racial science" of the 19th and 20th centuries and was an essential ideology in the genocide of the National Socialists.
- Scientists today reject palmistry. On the other hand, it is often still regarded as "secret science" among esotericists.
What does chirology think it recognizes?
Palmistry on the one hand indicates characteristics such as warm-heartedness, ambition, self-esteem, on the other hand interests and a “vital force”. The shape of the hand and fingers is said to indicate susceptibility to disease as well as general health.
For example, the shape of the fingers alone should express various aspects:
- Long fingers stand for intelligence, but people with short fingers are not the brightest.
- Large finger limbs distinguish someone who thinks slowly but works conscientiously.
- Spatula-shaped fingers, on the other hand, have active people
- Angular fingers indicate a cautious character.
- People with thick and short fingers only think of themselves.
- People with long, slender fingers have a special sense of beauty, but are also introverted.
- “Sausage fingers” stand for someone who also likes to eat sausages, so tends to be addicted to food and other pleasure.
The hand lines should be particularly important because they supposedly show a person's life path. So there is
- the stomach line,
- the lifeline,
- the heart line,
- the sun line,
- the partnership lines,
- the line of Neptune,
- the Uranus line,
- the line of fate
- or the headline.
A straight and long lifeline stands for a long life without crises. If this line is broken, it is said to indicate life crises. In the love lines, a pronounced dimple is said to indicate marriage.
An old story
Chirology goes back to early antiquity and has been handed down from India as well as from Egypt, Babylon and Assyria. In these early civilizations, palmistry fell under the sciences and was one of the methods of doctors. It was closely related to astrology, i.e. the belief that it could say something about a person from the state of the stars. In addition to the interpretation of the face, “reading” from the hands was the most important “reading second” of physiognomics. Since the hands are one of the most complex parts of the visible human body (alongside the face) and countless muscles and nerves are involved in the fact that they can work, it is not surprising that our ancestors must have already known that they were "mysterious" interact with our thoughts and feelings.
In fact, movements of the hands, for example to ward off a blow or grab something, are unconscious. If a conscious thought were necessary, for example in the event of a fall, to trigger a nervous reaction, humans would not have survived long in evolution. Without a knowledge of subconscious processes in the body, it was natural to assume in your hands a divine, astrological or somehow magical predestination.
Aristotle, Pythagoras, Hippocrates, Plinius, Seneca and Galen trusted physiognomics and the rediscovery of antiquity led to a boom in “body reading” in the Renaissance, which became an important branch of the occult arts. It was in a similar relationship to modern psychology as alchemy to chemistry.
A pseudoscience of the Enlightenment
The Enlightenment took over the physiognomics and thought to liberate them from the supernatural, so they considered it a rational science. At the time of the Enlightenment, however, physiognomics was more prevalent in popular literature than among scientists.
In fact, scientific knowledge came into play: Georges Cuvier, the founder of paleontology and comparative anatomy, had found that the anatomy of an animal can exactly determine its lifestyle and correctly decoded the entire skeleton of an animal from a single bone find - as is the case, for example, with today's dinosaur researchers to do.
This comparative anatomy, combined with a pre-Joyful protopsychology, gave the face and palm reading a hype: If a dog's body structure could not behave any differently than a dog, then with a little imagination it could be transferred to the character of a person .
If it was easier for a person with long, thin fingers, the "pianist's hands", to use the keys on a piano, it could easily be associated that the fingers were "made for just that" - by whoever. If a glutton who shoveled excessive amounts of food had short and thick fingers, it could easily be concluded that the short and thick fingers marked him as an addict.
Such associative thinking and the resulting conclusions make up a large part of our assessments: we combine what we see with judgments and put both in causality. Our synapses do not care whether this cause-effect applies. This unconscious association as a coordinate system in our environment is usually sufficient. On the other hand, conscious reflection and analysis of real causes and effects requires conscious and slow thinking - the brain needs more energy for this. We therefore only use it when the association reaches its limits and, for example, puts us in problematic situations.
Physiognomics and genocide
In the Renaissance we could dismiss the revival of palmistry as a half-scientific, half-religious whim, but it wasn't really dangerous. But caution is also required here: the early modern period was the era of systematic witchcraft persecution. Tens of thousands of innocents were burned at the stake in Europe for "acts" that could not have been committed, such as intercourse with the devil. Physiognomics played an important role. So the pursuers looked for the devil's mark, a conspicuous birthmark or mole; in some places someone with the same length of middle finger and index finger was suspected of being a person who turns into a wolf.
The 19th century was even worse. "Racialists" declared the religious-esoteric reading of properties from physical characteristics to be "science" and thus justified racism and eugenics. The shape of the skull should explain the differences between "higher" and "lower" human races. Criminalistics also believed that criminals could be recognized by their physique, skull and hands.
Physiognomics is not only considered unscientific in science, it is also completely outlawed for its role in racism, discrimination and the genocide of the Nazis. On the other hand, among esotericists, "psycho-physiognomics" is often considered to be "secret knowledge", including chirology. They also refer to sources of ethnic thinkers and racists who practiced body reading.
Today, esotericists, astrologers and even some naturopaths still read in their hands. Scientifically there is no connection between the shape of the hand and the career or characteristics of a person. It can be seen from the calluses on one hand whether someone is working hard physically, or from dirt under the fingernails that they don't care much about personal hygiene - but that is by no means the cause of their hands.
It is a classic fallacy that hand lines mean something. Everyone is an individual, both in appearance and in their abilities and characteristics. His hand lines are as individual as his fingerprint and character. Conversely, this does not mean that this character can be derived from fingerprints and hand lines.
Why Do People Believe Palm Readers?
Palmistry works similarly to daily horoscopes as a mixture of Barnum statements and cold reading. Bamum statements describe attributions that are so vague that those affected can almost always agree with them. Cold reading is applied psychology. Here, the “hand reader” does not draw his conclusions from the lines of the hand, but from conscious and, even more so, unconscious signals from his counterpart.
The forer effect
The effects of chirology, astrology and other pseudoscientific methods can be explained excellently with the Forer effect. The name derives from a test that psychologist Bertram Forer gave his students in 1948. In it he had written statements from any daily horoscope.
The text read: “You need the affection and admiration of others, and you tend to be self-critical. Although your personality has some weaknesses, you can generally compensate for them. You have considerable untapped skills. Externally disciplined and controlled, you feel anxious and insecure. Sometimes you have doubts about the correctness of your decisions. You prefer a certain amount of change and you are dissatisfied when restricted by prohibitions and restrictions. You are proud of your independent thinking and do not accept other people's statements without proof. They consider it unwise to open up to others too frankly. Sometimes you behave extroverted, affable and open-minded, sometimes introverted, skeptical and reserved. Your wishes sometimes seem rather unrealistic. And? Do you recognize yourself? On a scale from zero (not applicable) to five (perfectly applicable): How well did I rate you? "
Forer now claimed to each student that he described this description specifically for him. Overall, the test subjects rated the approval as 4.3. The arbitrary text, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the individual people, led to the fact that 86 percent of the people recognized themselves in it. As a result, various similar tests were repeated and the result was almost the same every time.
Some statements are always correct
This is also the case with palmistry. The "art" is to make every statement so vague that the customer can agree. For example, he says, based on Forers' text: "Externally disciplined and controlled, you feel anxious and insecure, which shows the length of your middle fingers", most would agree. Because a person who does not act completely uncontrolled will always try to discipline himself externally if he feels anxious. The success rate of palm readers could be even greater than in Forers text, because he can adjust his "predictions" to the person sitting opposite him. But this has nothing to do with the supposed meaning of “heart or life lines”, but is a knowledge of human nature that a good salesperson needs as well as a trickster.
The feature positive effect
Forers Test works not only through generally valid statements, but also because it is implicitly flattering. This is called feature positive effect. "Sometimes you behave extroverted, affable and open-minded, sometimes introverted, skeptical and reserved." This not only covers a whole spectrum, but also suggests appropriate behavior in relation to the situation. People prefer to agree to this than if someone says "they act like the last idiot". Whether it is true or not hardly matters.
The confirmation bias
A typical mistake in thinking that makes it easier for readers to do their job is the confirmation bias. It means that we like to accept what corresponds to our self-image and filter out what does not correspond to this self-image. This is how we outline an idea of ourselves that is coherent for us. A palmist who gathers a crowd of customers now has the necessary human knowledge to tell his listeners exactly what they want to hear about them. If someone goes to the palm reader and believes in this esoteric technique, he also filters out everything that de facto does not correspond to reality. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Nickerson, Raymond S .: "Confirmation Bias: A Ubiquitous Phenomenon in Many Guises", in: Review of General Psychology, Vol 2 Issue 2, 1998, sagepub.com
- Newman, Joseph; Wolff, William; Hearst, Eliot: "The Feature-Positive Effect in Adult Human Subjects", in: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory, Vol. 6 No. 5.1980, researchgate.net
- Forer, Bertram R .: "Personal validation and the person", in: Psychological Reports, Vol 23 Issue 3 Supplement, 1968, sagepub.com
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