As more and more U.S. adults are separating from traditional religion, many still desire an outlet for “spirituality,” which primarily entails a search for self-knowledge and understanding of others and the world around us. Of these spiritual beliefs, one stands heads and shoulders above the rest: zodiac signs.
According to a YouGov’s 2022 Poll, over a quarter of Americans believe in astrology, contributing to a market to exceed $22 billion by 2031. And even those who don’t believe it have surely heard of it.
Zodiac signs have made their way into pop culture, from fast fashion to social media. There’s even a built-in feature on Snapchat to determine and share your birth chart, containing all your zodiac placements (beyond just your “sun sign”).
Zodiac lovers often say it’s a “personal belief” and why should people care “as long as it’s not hurting anyone.”
But is the belief in zodiac signs truly harmless?
The general premise of this practice is that your time of birth directly correlates with your personality. There are several “planets” that rule over areas in your life, such as the moon, which is said to correlate with your emotions. Those planets are in certain “signs,” which then describe one’s behavior in that area of life. These signs can be calculated by online “birth chart generators” with accompanying descriptions.
Although there is seemingly no issue in entertaining the idea of zodiac placements, the trouble lies with over-identifying with it. The internet is swamped with posts about the pros and cons of different signs, going as far as telling you who to date (or not date) and what toxic traits each sign has.
It’s easy to become transfixed by these ideas, as it promises a sort of cheat code for understanding people.
There are stereotypes about each of the 12 signs, and also the “element” that the signs fall under: fire, air, earth, and water. For example, water signs are stereotyped to be more emotional than others. They are artistic, caring and manipulative crybabies. Even if you happened to be a water sign and possessed these traits, over-identifying with it can lead to a number of problems.
First, you might excuse negative behavior simply because it’s a trait of your sign. Second, you might think you’re stuck with certain personality traits, rather than seeing yourself as an autonomous, growing individual. Third, you might make assumptions about others based on their signs before truly getting to know them, falling into the trap of confirmation bias, a psychological phenomenon of looking for information that suits your pre-conceived beliefs.
It’s important to remember that even though zodiac signs aren’t prescribed to a specific religion or spirituality, it’s still pseudoscience. Similar to some people being uncomfortable discussing religious beliefs, others may similarly be uncomfortable with you asking or calculating their zodiac placements.
All in all, people have the right to practice and believe what they wish. Many people claim to benefit from zodiac signs, saying that it helps them in the realm of self-knowledge and improvement, and to have a deepening understanding of others.
However, that does not discount the potential negative effects of over-identification. Zodiac signs begin to be a problem when we use them as a substitute for real-world explanations of peoples’ behavior.
– Pearl Bellomo