Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Student doing a study on sun signs

I was hoping you could help me with a school project. I'm looking at how often people born under a certain sun sign manifest the traits associated with that sign.

I need help with a few different things. First, I know that a sun sign by itself is a very inaccurate method of trying to analyze or predict a personality, since so any other factors influence a horoscope. But are they completely inaccurate? How strong of a correlation would you predict between the characteristics associated with a sun sign and those represented by people under that sign?

Specifically, my project consists of a survey where students identified themselves as possessing one of several traits – for example, "are you usually more practical or dreamy?" I compared those results to what sun sign characteristics would predict the person would answer, looking at about thirty traits per sign. Of those thirty traits, how many would you anticipate matching between an individual's answers and their sun sign's predictions?

Secondly, I found several contradictions when gathering characteristics associated with sun signs, so I don't have complete confidence in the traits I ended up picking. I've included below the traits I found -- could you tell me if any are more or less closely identified with the sign, and so more or less likely to be represented by the people I polled?

Thank you so much for any help you're able to give me.

Sincerely and gratefully,


11th grade

Hi there! Happy to help. I have answered you in more detail via private email but decided to blog your letter (with your permission) because I think others may have similar questions. The following reply has been edited to better fit the blog format.

The Rising Sign is often a better predictor of outside personality than the Sun Sign, but I don't take any sign on its own when making an astrological assessment. Astrological charts are complex, like the people they represent.

I really do not know how many people would acknowledge a strong correlation between their Sun Sign characteristics and their actual personality. I would be speaking from personal, anecdotal experience, I don't know of any specific studies referring to the scope of your question. The problem is that personality characteristics are such a subjective thing to analyses. The Oracle at Delphi said "Know Thyself" ... and that is wise advice. But most of us really don't have all that good a grasp on who we are. Ask ten friends to give you ten keywords on your own personality, and you may find that you have ten different "personalities" . The "personality" of a given person is part who he or she thinks they are, part the facade they put on to the world, and that is filtered through the cultural and "personality" biases of the beholder.

If I were forced to a specific number, I would say somewhere between 60-75%. And that might also be affected by sun-sign ... I recall one mailing list where we were discussing the nitpickiness, fussiness and fastidiousness of Virgos who all told us in minute detail that they were not as analytical as Virgo is made out to be. It was really funny ... for everyone else . I mean, they were their own best rebuttal, heh heh ... but they couldn't see it. They labeled that part of their psychology as "bad", and they wanted to distance themselves from it. They are not the only sign with that problem. Any self-assessment is going to be biased. I don't think you can only go by what the individual answers. You have to poll their friends, loved ones, associates, to get a more objective picture.

There are often contradictions in the published lists of traits. Sometimes what seems to be a contradiction resolves itself when you see it as part of a polar extreme. For example, Libra is associated with relationships yet many of the Libras I know (including yours truly) are single. Why is this? Well, I can't speak for another Libra, but for me, relationships are so important that I choose to be alone rather than have a bad one. Someone who does not know me might be perplexed by my lack of a partner. Or, for example, I was looking at some formation that to me indicated strong ties to the family business, but my client indicated this was not the case. Further probing revealed that he had chosen his career specifically to rebel against it. They had indeed formed his life-path, just not in the way I assumed. These kind of "polar contradictions" occur a lot in astrology. In fact each of the signs can be better understood if you look at its polar opposite. For example, selfish Aries versus people-pleasing Libra.

I don't have a lot of time to do a detailed reply for each sign, but I sent some notes in private. I would not put "low self-esteem" in any of them ... you have a well or poorly adjusted person, you have good or bad self-esteem. Each sign has "qualities" that can be expressed in a positive or negative way. Sometimes our culture decides a given trait is "positive", sometimes not. Throw in cultural sexism ... for example the sensitivity of the female Cancer is considered a benefit. Many male Cancers put on a tough "crabby" shell because they want to disown it. The flipside (of course) is Capricorn ... an ambitious male is seen as positive. An ambitious female ... ? Not always the same words used to describe her personality. I do see some of the terms repeated in some of the signs as well. I would also say "tends to" on some of the more negative associations, or you will get more resistance to them.