Why horoscopes and zodiac signs are still popular among youths
Two youths, as well as a psychology professor, discuss why youths strongly identify with their zodiac signs and their stereotypes.
Have you ever heard someone say “I can’t help it, I’m a Virgo” or “Don’t date that person, your star signs are incompatible”?
I have heard those phrases uttered many times, usually when my friends confide in me about their personal relationships or dating endeavors. Not knowing better, I blindly agreed with them whenever they said things like “I just can’t get along with Taurus men”.
After doing some research however, I couldn’t help but question the things my friends said. My friendship group is made up of Geminis and Cancers, a combination that supposedly cannot get along, but we have a harmonious and conflict-free friendship.
This made me wonder: Are our personalities really affected by our zodiac signs? Why do so many youths around me associate personality traits to these zodiac signs? And how much should we believe in these horoscopes?
To dig deeper, I spoke to several youths and even a psychology professor to find out why youths believe in horoscopes and how accurate they really are.
The draw of horoscopes
I always thought horoscopes were written to be as general and relatable as possible to cater to a large range of people reading them, so I never understood how people could relate to these purposefully vague predictions.
Like me, Angel Lam, 20, is also skeptical about these cryptic descriptions, though she used to check her horoscope daily.
“The monthly horoscopes often mention going through some struggle, but I don’t think all 30 days of a month have ever been smooth-sailing for me. There’ll always be good times and bad times,” said the polytechnic student, who used to use the astrology app Co-Star.
Meanwhile, Jolene Chua, a 19-year-old undergraduate, does believe in horoscopes to a certain extent. She has more belief in Western horoscopic personalities as she finds them more unique and less restrictive than Chinese zodiac personalities or blood type personalities.
“Once, I was online shopping and wondering if I should buy something when I checked my horoscope. It said that I tend to be impulsive and overspend. I got creeped out and didn’t buy it,” she recalled with a laugh.
Cryptic horoscopes don’t just stop at predicting one’s future – they assign specific traits, behaviours and stereotypes to certain zodiac signs.
A common stereotype of Aquarians is that they often do not reply to texts. Angel, an Aquarius herself, disapproves when other Aquarians use that stereotype to justify their slow response times.
She said: “If you know you’re rude, do something to change it instead of blaming it on your horoscope. Telling people ‘I’m an Aquarius so I don’t text back’ won’t make them stay friends with you.”
Assistant Professor Albert Lee, who teaches psychology at the Nanyang Technological University, chalked up these stereotypes to the fundamental attribution error: people are inclined to attribute their life outcomes to their characteristics – be it their traits, temperaments or zodiac signs – instead of their environmental factors.
“When people feel the need to justify their behaviors or choices, signs can become easy targets of attributions,” he said.
Finding comfort in astrology
Some youths also choose to believe in astrology as it is a source of comfort. Whether or not they believe in astrology, the horoscopes can offer some comfort and insight during tough times.
“Reading zodiac posts on Instagram and resonating strongly with them lets me feel acknowledged and identified,” Jolene said.
Asst Prof Lee believes that youths seek solace in horoscopes, as astrology is an accessible and “user-friendly” belief system. Instead of getting to the bottom of the behaviour of themselves or others, which is tedious and taxing, youths can use astrology to explain many aspects of their life.
He said: “Horoscopes provide quick and easy ways for people to understand so many things about themselves – from the routine behaviours they do and daily decisions they make, all the way to the grand scheme of life such as their professions and life goals.”
Angel recounted a time reading her horoscope helped her – she was feeling tired and defeated during her internship when she stumbled upon a post stating that Aquarians would face some struggles that month, but the next month would bring something new to the table. That post instantly made her feel better.
“Looking back it sounds really dumb, but at that point, it was something that I needed to see,” she said.
Not letting horoscopes take over their lives
Even though astrology may have helped Angel through tumultuous times, she chooses not to take horoscopes too seriously.
In the past, if her horoscope predicted that she would face struggles that day, she would spend the whole day preparing for that struggle. Eventually, she decided she didn’t want to live her life based on what an app was telling her – so she deleted the app.
While the accuracy of astrology has not been proven by science, Asst Prof Lee does not completely dismiss them. In fact, he enjoys discussing the effects of these horoscopes.
He said: “If a belief system has been there for centuries with millions of believers around the world, then there must be something interesting or important about it.
“While I am conservative about the predictive or explanatory sides of horoscopes, I am glad that they exist as an integral part of our social life.”
Since speaking to the professor and the youths, I learnt that horoscopes can be helpful for explaining certain behaviours or scenarios, but they should always be taken with a pinch of salt. It can be fun to read your horoscope, but we should not let our star signs dictate our lives or personalities.
You can still become friends with any “incompatible star signs”, and you can still pursue the career you want. And you should certainly never let your star sign jeopardise your relationships with others.
Instead of using horoscopes to defend your behaviour or rationalise your relationships with the people around you, use them as a tool to keep you feeling calm and happy when needed.
Take what works, and leave any negativity or unnecessary speculation behind.