Fortune telling works by deriving meaning in arbitrary phenomena and patterns. People observe things in nature, such as recorded dreams or animal sounds, or cause things to happen, such as stirring tea leaves or dealing cards, and they attempt to make sense of the actions. Very adept at finding and generating meaning in random things, humans employ a multitude of methods to predict the future.
Popular among well-educated Americans and Europeans in the 1800s, phrenology involves feeling the bumps on a person's skull to ascertain someone's personality and future.
Another form of predicting the future is numerology, which entails counting the number of letters in a person's name. Followers of numerology believe that the unique numbers of the name given to a person at birth provides insight into the lessons she is supposed to learn, how she interacts with others, and challenges she will face at any given period in time.
Dream interpretation, another form of fortune telling, relies on the belief that the images in sleep carry meaning. Many books and DVDs offer interpretations, such as the eating of walnuts in a person's dream foretells financial ruin and other losses.
More unusual means of fortune telling include felidomancy, which is the act of predicting the future based on watching cats, and gelomancy, which involves studying hysterical laughter.