Definition

Rumpology, also known as butt reading, is the pseudo-scientific activity of providing an individual with a reading of his or her personality, past, and future via examination of lines, crevices, dimples, warts, and folds on the buttocks, or rump (Carroll, 2010).

Overview


History

Numerous forms of divination have existed throughout human history, such as astrology, aeromancy, chirology, psychometry, and physiognomy (Carroll, 2003). Rumpology is a very recent form of divination, with only two professional rumpologists world-wide, Jacqueline Stallone and Sam Amos. However, Ulf Buck, a blind German clairvoyant, considers himself to be a 'Rump Reader' and claims to have the ability to predict people's futures (Carroll, 2011).

According to Stallone (n.d.) she herself has restored the art of rumpology used by ancient Babylonians, Indians, Greeks and Romans and further notes that the Romans used prints of the buttocks to determine potential talents and future success. Allegedly, ancient rump reading required henna dye and a medium, such as papyrus. The person desiring divination would cover their buttocks with dye and sit on a medium, leaving behind an imprint to be left with a seer, an ancient rumpologist, for a reading (Stallone, n.d.). However, with regards to the history of rumpology, no sources have evidence to soundly support these claims and, when questioned, Stallone has refused to reveal her own sources (Stallone, 2011).
Jackie-Stallone.jpg
Rumpologist Jacqueline Stallone

Theory and Practice

Stallone (n.d.) claims the left and right buttock reveal an individual's past and future, respectively. The left buttock contains a record of the original description of a person's personality and make up, as it is unaffected by time and experience. The right buttock contains an ever-changing record of a person's life events and developments, as well as provides indications of things to come (Stallone, 2011). The gluteal crevice, or gluteal cleft, represents the division between the past and the future (Stallone, n.d.). It provides an indication of how affected a person is from their time and experiences, where the magnitude of affectability is represented by how smooth and straight the crevice is (Stallone, 2011).

In addition to Stallone's claims, Sam Amos and Ulf Buck also consider the shape of the buttocks as a strongly influential component of their readings, as they too reflect a person's personality (Carroll, 2011). In the January 5, 2006 edition of the UK's That's Life magazine, Amos reported there are 8 features of the buttocks that have unique personalities, issues, and/or futures. They are listed in the following table:
FEATURE
RESULT OF A READING
Heart-shaped buttocks
Emotional, romantic, sensual
Square buttocks
Cool, calm, collected
Flat buttocks (female)
Anxious, need to relax
Round buttocks
Pushy, outgoing, determined, selfish
Lines on the bottom left cheek
Feeling pressure from your partner
Dimple on the top right cheek (round / triangle)
(Indecisive / Fiery)
Dimple on the far right of the right cheek
Shows a new job in the future
Mark near the gluteal cleft
Indecisive at work
The following video segment is Sam Amos appearing on the UK's daytime television show This Morning, explaining what rumpology is, as well as performing several readings.



According to Carroll (2011), Ulf Buck reported two examples of buttocks categories and their unique readings:
  1. An apple-shaped, muscular buttocks is indicative of a person who is charismatic, dynamic, confident, and creative; a person who enjoys life
  2. A pear-shaped buttocks is indicative of a person who is steadfast, patient, and down-to-earth

Stallone (2011) claims to find it impractical for her to make one-on-one appointments with perspective clients and as such requires them to take a picture of their nude or partially covered rump and send it to her for a reading. Sam Amos can perform readings in-person or from pictures. If in-person, the individual must be wearing at least high-cut briefs. Ulf Buck, due to his blindness, can only preform readings through direct touch of the buttocks (Carroll, 2011).
Ulf Buck.jpg
Ulf Buck reading a male client

Public Reception

Several day-time television talk show segments of Sam Amos can be viewed online (e.g. YouTube.com). The common response made by hosts and audience members is often that of humour, disbelief, and extreme skepticism. Stallone (2011) acknowledges that rumpology has been met with amusement and mockery; however, she dismisses critics as "disgruntled people who complain about the work of others, yet do nothing meaningfully creative of their own". Sheree Silver, psychic and president of the Shiloh Spiritual Center in Florida, discredited all claims of rumpology, stating she "can't imagine anyone wasting their time and money on [something] like this when there are some many legitimate psychics out there" (Rodriguez, 2004).

But is Rumpology Based on Science?


Human Divination Systems

Of all forms of divination, Stallone (2011) claims the most intimate and effective form involves reading the human body, as it contains vast amounts of information about a person. Stallone likens the art of rumpology to face reading, the act of using a person's face to assess personality and predict their future. Furthermore, she claims that every person has the innate ability to perform a face reading. While not everyone will be able to predict precise personalities or futures, a person has the ability to intuitively 'pick up' on the emotions in a given situation (Stallone, 2011).

ex. If a person observes another person's face as frowning, a likely emotional response is sadness, anger, or displeasure
ex. If a person observes another person's pupils dilate, a likely emotional response is sexual interest (Hall, 1998)

One of the earliest related pseudo-scientific activities to rumpology is physiognomy, defined by Carroll (2003) as the interpretation of the outward appearance, with particular interest of the face, to assess a person's primary personality traits. The oldest account of analyzing the face to decipher an individual's personality dates back to ancient Greece; however, it was most popular during the end of the 18th century, notably by the works of the Swiss poet Johann Kaspar Lavater (Highfield et al., 2009). The conceptual purpose behind physiognomy was to create a science out a frequent and seemingly innate human action: judge a person by his or her facial characteristics (Carroll, 2003). Modern research shows when a person observes the face of another for the first time, a judgement of character - attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, competence and aggressiveness - is formulated within a tenth of a second (Willis & Todorov, 2006). Once these judgements are formed, a person is not likely to sway very far from their initial opinion. Furthermore, if a person is read as untrustworthy and is proceeded to being treated as such, the judged individual will likely end up committing untrustworthy acts (Highfield et al., 2009).

Physiognomical Analysis of Kim Jong-Un.jpg
Translated South Korean physiognomical analysis of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

Physical Properties
Stallone (2011) suggests that an understanding of the largest organ of the human body, the skin, is important to rump reading, as the skin will be the outer surface which the reading takes place. It is her view that the skin, in general, is an ever changing organ and a respectable living historical document. She claims that everything a person does, feel, and experience is written within the skin (Stallone, 2011).

In fact, the skin acts as a barrier between the environment and the organism. It's primary purpose is to protect against physical and chemical harm, pathogens, and regulate water and solutes (Proksch et al., 2008). Physical harm may cause damage to the skin and can result in, for example, contusions or scars. A contusion, or bruise, is caused when blood from broken blood vessels escapes and accumulates in surrounding tissue. Discolouration is a result of blood accumulating just under the skin (Dorland's Medical Dictionary, n.d.). A scar is a mark in the skin as a result of injured tissues healing (Merriam Webster Online., n.d.).

In Stallone's (2011) view, if these two features were present on the surface of the skin, this is a living record of some event that has happened in the past to an individual, a claim which is undoubtedly true. Stallone adds that the skin records more than damage, but experiences as well that affect the overall shape and feel of the skin. She says if you shake the hand of a farmer or mechanic, the skin on their hands will be coarse and tough. This is indicative of someone who is very hard working and a person who can make things happen. Conversely, the hands of a academic or office worker will be more soft and aesthetic This is indicative of someone who works hard with their mind (Stallone, 2011).

The body can be conditioned as a result of doing, or lack of doing, certain activities, which can change the physical appearance of a person. For example, strength training can increase strength, muscle and bone density, and self-esteem. Generally, the skin will become tighter and healthier in appearance with this form of exercise (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011). However, stress hormones (e.g. androgen and cortisol), solar ultraviolet radiation, diet, age, stress, and genetics also affect the condition of every organ, including the skin (Scheve, n.d.). Therefore, it is probable to have a person who isn't employed in a 'hands-orientated' career, such as the academic or office worker, to have the hands of a farmer or mechanic from Stallone's example.

Why Rumpology is a Pseudo-Science

Demarcation

The purpose of demarcating science is to provide criteria to evaluate which human activities are to be considered scientific (Resnik, 2000). This is an important task, especially regarding rumpology, as every person has the right to be properly informed. Stallone (n.d.) claims to be responsible for astrology becoming accepted as an accredited course in American colleges and universities. Though there is no further detail about which schools accredited astrology and whether it is taught as a philosophy or science, demarcation is important to public and private academic institutions because of the need to know what should be taught in science class rooms (Bortolotti, 2008).

Verifiability

Thagard (1978) defines somethings as verifiable if observations can be deduced from a statement or theory to determine whether the statement or theory is true or false. A statement can take different structures; however, specific structures are useful in demarcating which statements are scientific. A synthetic statement is a statement that is not determined true or false by inspection of its syntax or on the meaning of contained terms. To determine if the statement is true or false, it must be verified by experience (Bortolloti, 2008).

ex. A synthetic statement verified to be true is "Asia has the largest area of all the continents"
ex. A synthetic statement verified to be false is "All birds can fly"

Logical positivism was a philosophical movement in the 1920's that believes scientific knowledge is the only kind of factual knowledge and that questions of metaphysics, religion and ethics were not meaningful (Uebel, 2012). Logical positivists believed that information about the world comes from our senses and everything said about the world must be verifiable. If a statement cannot be verified (i.e. the statement is not synthetic) it is not meaningful. Furthermore, if a statement is not meaningful, the statement is not scientific (Bortolotti, 2008).

Falsifiability

Sir Karl R. Popper, a philosopher of science, suggests that science should not be held to a process of verifying a statement or hypothesis, but a process that aims to falsify a statement or hypothesis. Popper was not satisfied with verification, as it depended heavily upon induction. The results of induction are statements that rely upon a finite number of cases which then apply to all cases (Bortolotti, 2008). Popper (1963) laid out criteria of falsifiability to ensure proper demarcation of science from non-science activities; these criteria are listed as follows:
  1. Verifications are easily attained for nearly all statements and are not satisfactory for demarcating scientific statements.
  2. Verification should count if is is the result of "risky predication"; predictions must introduce parameters that allow it to be disconfirmed.
  3. A good scientific theory forbids certain events from happening. The more a theory forbids, the better the theory.
  4. A statement or theory that is not able to be refuted by any means is non-scientific.
  5. Testing of a theory is an attempt to refute or falsify the theory. A statement being testable is a statement being falsifiable.
  6. Confirming evidence should count only it it is the result of a genuine test of the theory; a genuine unsuccessful falsification attempt.
  7. Some theories are relieved from refutation by addition of auxiliary assumptions, which lower or destroy the scientific status of the particular theory.
Karl Popper.jpg
Karl Popper


Context-Dependent Factors

Thagard (1978) proposes another criterion, unlike verifiability and falsifiability, must be examined when demarcating science. He suggests that the community of practitioners who advocate a particular theory must be considered. Under this criterion, he poses three questions of importance:
  • Are practitioners in agreement on their particular theory's principles and on solving problems that confront the theory?
  • Are practitioners concerned with the explanation of anomalies and comparing the resulting number of successful predictions to that of other theories?
  • Are practitioners actively engaging in an attempt to falsify their theory and improve upon it (i.e. make more "risky predictions")?

Derived from these questions, Thagard (1978) proposes that a human activity is pseudo-scientific if and only if:
  • it is less progressive than other theories over a long time duration and face numerous unsolved problems
  • the practitioners make little to no attempt in developing the theory towards solutions to unsolved problems, do not attempt to relate the number of successful predictions of their theory to that of others, and are particular about confirmations and disconfirmations of their theory

Failing to Satisfy Demarcation Requirements

Verifiability and Falsifiability

The foundation of most forms of divination, sympathetic magic is the metaphysical belief that like affects like. The belief claims that lines, shapes, and patterns in or on some object (e.g. stars, thrown dirt, palm of the hand, buttocks) are connected magically to the past, present, and future (Carroll, 2003). Anthropologists consider the human belief of sympathetic magic to be the precursor to scientific thinking and indicates a primitive understanding of control over the natural world through cause and effect (Carroll, 2011). According to logical positivism, metaphysical statements and, therefore, methodologies based on magic are not scientific (Uebel, 2012).

It is possible to make rumpology testable. Rumpologists claim through the examination of lines, crevices, dimples, warts, and folds on the buttocks, or rump, an individual's past, future, and personality is determined (Carroll, 2011). This claim is falsifiable. It is possible to imagine an experiment that studies the correlation between appearance and placement of, for example, a wart on the buttocks and the corresponding personality predicted by rumpologists. This definition is also forbidding, as it specifically details which features are considered during a reading. Anything that is not a line, crevice, dimple, wart or fold should have no bearing on the rumpologist when determining an individual's personality, past, and future. For example, tattoos, bruises, scars, or birthmarks should not be considered during a reading.

Context-Dependent Factors

Thagard (1978) defines progressiveness as the success of a theory overcoming unsolved problems and explaining more facts over time. One of the issues with Thagard's first criterion for demarcation is a theory has to be progressive over a long period of time. A pseudo-science, such as palmistry, has been practiced as early as the 15th century and today continues to have numerous believers and practitioners. Palmistry would meet the pseudo-science demarcation requirement of not being progressive while still facing numerous unsolved problems (Carroll, 2003). Rumpology has not been practiced very long. Its approximate beginning is 10 years ago (Carroll, 2011). As mentioned prior, Stallone (n.d.) claims rumpology began as early as ancient Greece; however, no sources have evidence to soundly support these claims. When questioned, Stallone has refused to reveal her own sources (Stallone, 2011). Stallone (2011) openly dismisses and ignores critics and skeptics, paying no concern to developing solutions to problems rumpology faces and therefore does not meet Thagard's second criterion.

Due to the nature of rumpology and the uncanny resemblance to palmistry, the greatest issues burdening rumpologists are what skeptics call subjective validation and cold reading (Carroll, 2011). Subjective validation is the tendency of an individual to accept words, letters, statements, and/or signs as being uniquely applicable to them. The individual gives words, letters, statements, and/or signs a personal or significant meaning without realizing they could be applied to almost anyone in the population (Carroll, 2003). Associated with subjective validation is selective memory, the tendency for an individual to recall the successful readings of the reader and forget the unsuccessful ones. Unsuccessful readings are forgotten because the individual was not able to apply meaning to or make sense of them (Carroll, 2012).

Cold reading is a series of techniques that persuade an individual into believing the reader has a special ability that allows him/her to know intimate things about them, such as personality, career choices, or future plans (Carroll, 2003). By inspection, the reader can observe a person's features, such as clothing, age, gender, ethnicity, speech and body language, in an attempt to categorize the person and make general statements that are considered statistically likely about that person based on the category. Together with suggestion and flattery, cold reading is a manipulation tool that depends on a person's tendency to apply meaning to something where there is none, or more meaning to something than should be (Hyman, 2007). It is common for readers to make vague claims, such as Amos frequently making statements involving "I feel that" or "I would say" in the video provided above. This in an action called fishing, where the reader will pose vague statements, sometimes in the form of a question, to which the individual's responses or answers will reveal specific details. If successful, the reader appears paranormal. If unsuccessful, the reader will either accommodate the claim to avoid being wrong, or depend on the individual not remembering it (Carroll, 2012).

Potential Harm


For people misguided into believing rumpology to be a legitimate science and practice, financial concern is a common issue for the services of a rumpologist. Amos' readings normally last 20-30 minutes and charges £30-£50 per reading (Amos, n.d.). The largest financial concern occurs for the services of rumpologist Jacqueline Stallone, as they are the most expensive. For an individual to attain a reading of their buttocks, or 'Rumpology Report', from Stallone, the individual must fill out a 'Rumpology Report Request Form', which is downloaded after the money or cheque has been sent and received by her. The form requires the individual give personal detail (e.g. name, age, gender, etc.) and select one of four report packages. Once completed, a photo of the buttocks is to be taken and mailed alongside the request form to Stallone (Stallone, n.d.). The four packages are described below:
  1. TOTAL Rumpology Report - an analysis of the left cheek (the past), right cheek (the future) and the gluteal cleft (personality) - $600.00
  2. LEFT Rumpology Report - an analysis of the left cheek (the past) - $300.00
  3. RIGHT Rumpology Report - an analysis of the right cheek (the future) - $300.00
  4. GLUTEAL CLEFT Rumpology Report - an analysis of the gluteal cleft (personality) - $250.00

Within 21 days, the rumpology report and original photo will arrive to the individuals delivery address (Stallone, n.d.).

Conclusion


Rumpology is a recently practiced form of divination. Jacqueline Stallone, the self-proclaimed revivalist of the ancient art, claims a rumpologist can provide an individual with a reading of his or her personality, past, and future via examination of lines, crevices, dimples, warts, and folds on the buttocks, or rump. Though there have been no scientific results to support the claims made by rumpologists, this form of divination has striking similarities to other forms, such as palmistry. Due to this uncanny resemblance, rumpology faces the same issues of progressiveness and unsolved problems as the pseudo-sciences closely related to it. Since it fails to fulfill most of the demarcation requirements, rumpology is considered a pseudo-scientific activity. However, this does not stop rumpologists from practicing their art, as the services of a rumpologist, under the guise of science, can be purchased.

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