If you squint and turn your head a bit, you could argue that I’m always doing research on astrology and zodiacs. I check my horoscope basically every day. I have a little post-it note reminding me of my Moon and Venus signs on my laptop, for quick reference. I have my natal chart downloaded as a pdf on my computer. However, I had never before looked into theory about the topic, origin stories, or even the methods behind determining my horoscope.
This week, I decided to start with the Chinese zodiac because that’s where I started my own obsession. After my initial cursory glance of the Wikipedia page on the Chinese zodiac, I went to our library databases to try to look up possible books I could check out on the topic. I quickly realized that most of these books were actually in Chinese. I do not read Chinese. I had about 20 books to choose from and a strangely large proportion of them were children’s stories based around the animals of the Chinese zodiac. I haven’t totally discounted the idea of checking out a book about the Chinese zodiac, but I have postponed it.
Instead, I settled in to find some scholarly articles.
Reminder: The project I have in mind is going to be half research and half personal, creative non-fiction.
After finding some lackluster articles that simply listed out all of the names of the animals listed by the zodiac or other things that didn’t really inspire me, I found an article titled “Cross-Cultural Differences in the Acceptance of Barnum Profiles Supposedly Derived From Western Versus Chinese Astrology” by Paul Rogers and Janice Soule. Barnum Profiles are fake, generalized personality profiles that are written to apply to anyone. In this study, two groups of people (Chinese and Western students) were given the same Barnum profile and told that it described their own personality and asked questions on how true it seemed to them. The students were told that the Barnum profile derived from an astrology profile computer system.
Part of the point of this project is to explore how my Chinese heritage and Western upbringing intermingle in an area where my beliefs have always been pretty evenly split. This article was helpful because it discussed the similarities and differences between the Chinese and the Western response to horoscopes and personality analysis based upon zodiacs. The initial hypothesis was that the Chinese students would be more susceptible to believing in the credibility of the Barnum profile because things like horoscopes, zodiacs, and astrology are taken much more seriously in China than they are in the West and other various differences in upbringing. Contrary to their expectations, the researchers found that there was no significant difference between the proportion of Chinese students and Western students who believed in the profile. However, they did note that Chinese students were much more accepting of the helpful possibilities of astrology than Western students were.
This article I think helped me to determine that I should not be more gullible to horoscopes because of my Chinese upbringing (not to say that I’m not gullible, but being Chinese-American is not the reason that I read my horoscope with such relish every week). One point of personal analysis checked off the list.