Why We All Fall for Con Artists

Posted 08 February 2016

Matthew Hutson (Science of Us – New York Times) interviews science writer, Maria Konnikova about her book The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It … Every Time, published by Viking.  In the interview, she makes the following pertinent points:

The more we want something to be true, the more skeptical we have to be.

Asked if certain types of people are more skilled or motivated in conning, she replied:

In my book I talk about the dark triad of traits: psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism. Any of those can predispose someone to being a con artist. In order to be a con artist you have to take advantage of other people’s belief in you, and psychopaths don’t really have a conscience, so it’s much easier for them to take that step. Narcissism, you have to have an overinflated sense of self in order to rationalize conning other people, especially if you’re not a psychopath. If you’re someone who feels emotion normally, narcissism will protect you, because you say, “Well, I deserve it.” And finally, Machiavellianism is a textbook definition of a con artist, because it’s someone who is like Machiavelli’s “ideal prince,” someone who uses the tools of persuasion and deception and connivance to get what he wants. The ends justify the means. But a lot of it, as with so many things in psychology, is a meeting of predisposition and opportunity. 

Read the article in the Science of Us – New York Times

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