How Fortune Cookies Work

It’s a Friday. I want to wait until 9:30 to begin attempting to understand my hideously complicated notes on “5000 years of Chinese history”. Therefore, I’ll take these five minutes to randomly explain something most of us already know about.


Many fortune cookie readings seem to be dead-on accurate. Ever eaten a fortune cookie and found that the little slip of paper inside corresponds uncannily to your life?

Take the fortune on the first cookie I ate yesterday for instance. It read “you’re putting on weight, time for exercise!”. At first glance, it seems very true (okay, it is very true).

But what these ‘fortunes’ actually are are simply generalizations or vague statements that most people would fit into.

You’ve been putting on weight, time for exercise – most people put on weight. Most people despair about their weight. This statement can apply to a very broad audience.

Another example, “Face all the challenges you meet in your life bravely. Times have been hard recently, but go for it!”. Your first thought would be “Oh, it’s true – I’ve been going through so many challenges lately!”. But stop and think about it. Doesn’t everyone go through challenges at every point in their lives? Figuring out how to fix a faulty stapler is a challenge. Doing a math worksheet is a challenge. Heck, even typing this post with one hand is a challenge.

The promise of the “fortune cookie”, the anticipation of wanting to know what your “fortune” is – these are what make you want to believe in the fortune. Thus, no matter how far-fetched or weird the fortunes are, they will most likely seem accurate to the average person.

As another example, let’s use my second fortune. This one was “You’ll soon meet your dream lover. Grasp the opportunity!” (many lulz were had)

Let’s say girl X is going to meet a lot of male acquaintances/friends, all around her age, during Chinese New Year. Before reading this fortune, she may think something along these lines:

“Ok, I’m going to A, B and C’s houses next week.”

But because she is so eager (despo?) to believe this fortune, her mind exaggerates it into something like:

“zomg since A, B and C are the first few guys I will ‘soon meet’, one of them must be my dream lover! The fortune is true! I’m going to meet my dream lover in A, B or C!”

Of course, this is all very exaggerated and subjected to my illogical thought processes.

Have a nice day/night, sleep early (it’s good for your health) and take a second look at the piece of paper inside the next time someone offers you a fortune cookie.

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14 thoughts on “How Fortune Cookies Work

  1. u no I once got the dream lover,grasp the opportunity cookie,and completely disregarded it as nonsense,not gonna happen,but it did make me think of a crush I had not seen ina while,3days later,I come across my beauty,an her beautiful smile,I got caught completely off guard and froze,I wish I woulda listened 2the cookie and anticipated her.magnetism my friend,sometimes the right words find you..

  2. Fortune cookies don’t work on me. One time it said ” Good wealth and fortune is soon to come your way” and nothing EVER happened. But when it said ” A sense of humor is one of your greatest assets” it seemed true. I don’t get it.

    • Jenny, the basic idea is that fortune cookies don’t actually have any powers of prediction – they don’t actually work! The reason that fortune cookies and horoscopes sometimes seem true (for example, the one you got that said “a sense of humor is one of your greatest assets”) is because they are usually written to say very general things that could apply to anyone – and so in case something on them does happen, you’re likely to think that it was related to the fortune.

  3. ths is very weird, 5 days ago i had a fortune cookie and it said ‘you will soon receive an offer you cannot refuse’ thn 2 days later it came true!!! xD i got a great job which offered uummm i cant remember rly but i get loads of money for a day !!!
    i love fortune cookies

    • Assume that you are extra lucky because now you have more than one fortune, and disregard any negative fortunes.

      I’ve never seen a cookie with more thna one fortune, though.

  4. well according to your thoughts about the fortune cookies i agree with you. And what you are saying seems pretty logic.

    I do however find this weird, i recently got a fortune cookie, i opened it, read it i turned the paper where it shows you the lucky numbers and on the bottom there’s a printed name which turns out to be the name of the guy i love.
    what are you thoughts about this?

    maybe it’s just coincidence!

  5. I’ve read plenty of articles and watched plenty of documentaries saying the same thing, and actually if you stop to think about it, it makes perfect sense.

  6. Oh haha. What you say is very true; your thought processes are not illogical at all. Unless mine is too? I suppose that is possible.

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