The Accuracy of Tarot Readings:
Unveiling the Math & Science
Behind the Cards

See also: The Importance of Mindset

In recent years, there has been a noticeable shift in the belief systems of people worldwide. Traditional religious affiliations have slightly declined, moving from 84% in 2007 to 77% in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center.

Simultaneously, new-age beliefs like astrology, psychics, and tarot readings have become popular (Pew Research Center, 2015; Gecewicz, 2018).

This raises the question: How accurate are practices like tarot readings, and what role does technology play in shaping our perception of them?

Tarot readings have been around for centuries, originating in the 15th century in Europe. At first, they were primarily used for card games, but over time, they evolved into a tool for divination. Today, tarot is often categorized alongside astrology and psychic mediums, drawing a sizable following and significant skepticism, especially from within the scientific community.

Illuminated curtain.

Tarot and Algorithmic Predictions

The leap from traditional to digital tarot readings parallels the way psychic mediums have evolved in the age of the Internet. With the advent of sophisticated algorithms, there is a tendency to blend technology with divination practices.

Tarot apps often use machine learning algorithms to provide interpretations based on the cards drawn. These algorithms base their predictions on vast datasets that comprise numerous human-generated readings, effectively learning the art of tarot.

But how accurate are these algorithmic tarot readings compared to a professional human tarot reader? The insight and awareness of a human professional tends to elicit a favourable response from audiences.

The current reliance on algorithms can be seen as a form of magical thinking, a topic highlighted in studies focused on psychic mediums and astrology (Lee et al.). As algorithms make predictions based on data and mathematical rules, the idea that they can also interpret the spiritual energy of tarot cards is up for debate.

What Does the Data Say?

Research on the accuracy of tarot readings is limited. Yet, statistical models can offer insights into whether tarot's predictions are better than chance. Some argue that the human psychology involved—the interpretation of the cards, the questions asked, and the dialogue between the tarot reader and the querent—has a significant impact on the reading's outcome. In this case, it becomes less a question of mystical accuracy and more of psychological resonance.

Tarot in the Digital Age

As with psychics, who have a surprising 41% belief rate among Americans (Gecewicz, 2018), tarot readings have also adapted to the modern-day digital revolution. Technology has amplified their reach and perhaps even their perceived legitimacy. Video chat readings and online tarot applications have proliferated, making it easier for people to seek tarot readings online.

This digital expansion is somewhat of a double-edged sword. While it makes tarot more accessible, it also makes it more susceptible to the same issues plaguing other forms of digital information—namely, the quality and reliability of the source.

Here's where media literacy comes into play. The concept of media literacy isn't limited to traditional news; it extends to our ability to critically evaluate the legitimacy and source of all information, including tarot readings.

Our digital era is fraught with challenges distinguishing credible information from pseudoscience or fake news, echoing a general lack of contemporary media literacy that allows pseudoscientific practices to thrive.

The Mathematical Angle

From a mathematical standpoint, tarot operates on probability and permutation. With 78 cards in a standard tarot deck, the number of possible card combinations is astronomically high, around 1.24 x 10^115*. Therefore, the odds of drawing any specific spread of cards are minuscule, akin to winning a lottery. However, this doesn't account for the interpretation, which adds additional layers of complexity.

The Role of Social Media

Social media platforms have influenced public opinion on various topics, including tarot. Psychic practices, including tarot, are booming on platforms like Instagram and YouTube.

Social media influencers specializing in tarot have amassed significant followings. Their reach has elevated tarot from a niche practice to mainstream consciousness, contributing to its perceived legitimacy (IBISWorld, 2018).

It's important to note that these influencers often employ hot readings, using online information to make their interpretations appear more accurate (LastWeekTonight, 2019).

In an age where personal details are freely available, this creates a compelling but potentially misleading narrative around the accuracy of tarot readings.

Scientific Scrutiny

With increasing popularity, tarot readings also draw more scrutiny. While scientific research into tarot is limited, what exists often explores the psychological aspects. Some theories suggest that the real power of tarot lies in its ability to tap into the human subconscious.

The imagery on the cards serves as a catalyst that enables individuals to unlock insights they may already possess but are not consciously aware of. While this isn't accuracy in a predictive sense, it does point to the potential for personal revelations that can feel remarkably precise.

Tarot as a Monetized Practice

Let's not forget the commercial angle. The rise of tarot apps and online platforms has turned what was once a spiritual practice into a thriving business. The ease with which tarot readings can now be accessed and purchased online points to an economy increasingly driven by the monetization of attention, much like the broader influencer culture (McLuhan, 2002).

Concluding Thoughts

As belief systems evolve and adapt to technological advances, the focus on practices like tarot readings intensifies. While science and math can shed some light on the odds and psychology involved, the role of technology in shaping public perception can't be ignored.

The digital age has democratized access to a wide range of information, but it has also made it imperative to question the legitimacy and source of that information. The accuracy of tarot readings, therefore, remains a complex issue, one that is part science, part psychology, and part digital influence.

With the rise of new media platforms, practices like tarot readings are not just surviving; they are thriving. But as we increasingly intertwine our lives with the digital world, it becomes essential to scrutinize these practices with both a scientific and a critical eye.

* The figure of 1.24×101151.24×10115 represents the number of unique sequences (permutations) of 78 cards in a standard Tarot deck. This is calculated using the factorial function, denoted as 78!78! (78 factorial), which is the product of all positive integers from 1 to 78. In this case, 78! ≈1.24 ×1011578! ≈1.24×10115.

About the Author

Sarah Sidney is a creative and smart content creator with almost 7 years of experience in lifestyle content. Always striving for an excellent job and being a great leader.