The Psychology Behind Why We Care about Astrology

why are we interested in astrology

Verywell / Nez Riaz

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If you're into astrology, you don’t just know your sun sign; you know your moon sign, your rising sign, and everything else in your astrological chart. You follow any astrology Instagram account you can find, and your phone’s notifications are always lighting up with updates from your favorite astrology apps. There’s no denying that astrology is currently having a moment in the cultural zeitgeist.

But what is it about the messages in the stars that is so appealing, and why now in particular? Verywell Mind combed the studies and talked to an astrologist who is also a psychologist to find out. 

What Is Astrology?

Astrology is the study of how the positions of the stars and planets are believed to affect human lives. Babylonian astrology is believed to be the first organized system of astrology, beginning more than 2,000 years ago. 

The Greeks solidified the signs that we know today around 280 BCE. There are also thought to be Chinese, Indian, and Egyptian influences.

These are current signs:

  • Aries: March 21–April 19
  • Taurus: April 20–May 20
  • Gemini: May 21–June 21
  • Cancer: June 22–July 22
  • Leo: July 23–August 22
  • Virgo: August 23–September 22
  • Libra: September 23–October 23
  • Scorpio: October 24–November 21
  • Sagittarius: November 22–December 21
  •  Capricorn: December 22–January 19
  •  Aquarius: January 20–February 18
  •  Pisces: February 19–March 20

The zodiac, a belt of the sky where the paths of the sun, moon, and planets are said to move, is divided into 12 constellations, each representing roughly a month’s time, with the “year” beginning at the Northern hemisphere spring equinox.

Why Are We Interested in Astrology?

An interest in astrology is, in some ways, a coping mechanism. Research has found a correlation between those experiencing acute crises (such as divorce or job loss) and a belief in astrology. It is believed that this is because astrology represents an immediate tool that can be turned to for comfort.

Astrology Helps You Get Through Tough Times

This is true on the macro level as well. History shows that people are more interested in astrology during tumultuous times. More articles about astrology were published in the U.S. during the Great Depression in the 1930s as well as in Germany between the two world wars.

Similarly, this tracks with the recent astrology boom in the wake of tumultuous political times and the uncertainty of a global pandemic.

“I think that astrology is having a peak moment because so many of the traditional institutions have failed to provide a meaning map for people,” says Jennifer Freed, PhD, a psychologist and astrologist. “Also, astrology, unlike those institutions, has been a place of welcoming for all people.”

It Gives Us a Sense of Control

Another aspect is that astrology may appeal to those who perceive an external locus of control. Someone who believes in an external locus of control will credit outside forces for both the good and the bad—blaming those forces if something goes wrong and crediting luck for success. 

Therefore, astrology can be appealing to them because they believe it can give them a hit of good luck that might bolster them to seek other forms of internal reinforcement. It might also be that it is an illusion of control.

It Acts as a Way to Understand Our Identity

Astrology is also seen as a way that one seeks validation for their self-concept—how they think about themselves.

Freed agrees, seeing it as a tool for people to use to “develop their unique gifts and use it for confirmation and encouragement.”

Jennifer Freed, PhD

It’s like having a fabulous rail down an exquisite staircase. You want to walk down the staircase and take every step mindfully, if you have something really solid to hold on to while you take your own steps, this is an excellent journey.

— Jennifer Freed, PhD

Additionally, we are more likely, as humans, to remember the the positive feedback that validates our self-conception, over negative feedback. For this reason, it’s easy to accept the ambiguous and positive aspects of astrology.

The fact that it is based on individualized informationsuch as one’s birth date and birth place also lends astrology another degree of credibility in some people’s eyes.

It's Hard to Tolerate Ambiguity 

Astrology can also really appeal to those who have an especially pronounced intolerance for ambiguity.

Similar to how it is used as a coping mechanism, it can provide a sense of stability in the face of uncertainty.

Humans have a profound desire to understand the world. If you can understand what's going on around you, you can make better decisions for yourself and your family. This is a survival tactic.

“As human beings throughout eons, we’ve always been in the quest to understand our existence and make meaning of our lives. Astrology is the oldest system of trying to understand existence and personalities and our personal destinies,” says Freed. 

In one study of Israeli citizens in high-stress areas during the Gulf War, the higher their stress levels were in the face of ambiguity, the more likely they were to engage in magical, or, superstitious thinking.

When you're facing an intellectual overload, believing in something like astrology can feel like you're getting the answers you crave during a difficult time.

Where to Get Started

Freed views astrology meme accounts or newspaper horoscopes as entertainment. She recommends starting with astrology apps for people who want to begin to dip their toes into learning about astrology—particularly apps that ask for your time and place of birth, as she says those will provide more accurate information. 

A Word From Verywell

Astrology is generally considered a pseudoscience,not science. There are no scientific and peer-reviewed studies that validate its premises and promises. With that said, it can still be a fun and harmless tool to engage with to learn more about yourself with the understanding that it is just one of many tools. 

8 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. Lillqvist O, Lindeman M. Belief in Astrology as a Strategy For Self-Verification and Coping With Negative Life-Events. European Psychologist. 1998;3(3):202–208.

  4. Padgett VR, Jorgenson DO. Superstition and Economic Threat: Germany, 1918-1940Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 1982;8(4):736-741. doi:10.1177/0146167282084021

  5. Swann WB, Read SJ. Acquiring self-knowledge: The search for feedback that fitsJournal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1981;41(6):1119-1128.

  6. Snyder CR. Why horoscopes are true: The effects of specificity on acceptance of astrological interpretations. Journal of Clinical Psychology. 1974; 30(4):577–580. 

  7. Keinan G. Effects of stress and tolerance of ambiguity on magical thinkingJournal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1994;67(1):48-55.

  8. Thagard PR. Why astrology is a pseudoscience. PSA: Proceedings of the Biennial Meeting of the Philosophy of Science Association. 1978;1978:223-234.

By Theodora Blanchfield, AMFT
Theodora Blanchfield is an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist and mental health writer using her experiences to help others. She holds a master's degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University and is a board member of Still I Run, a non-profit for runners raising mental health awareness. Theodora has been published on sites including Women's Health, Bustle, Healthline, and more and quoted in sites including the New York Times, Shape, and Marie Claire.