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There’s a sucker born every minute – particularly in the realm of so-called alternative medicine

Posted 23 March 2022

An post from the blog of Prof Edzard Ernst, MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd, and a previous Professor of Complementary Medicine.

“There’s a sucker born every minute”. This phrase was allegedly coined by P. T. Barnum, an American showman of the mid-19th century pictured below. It describes the tendency of the gullible of us to believe all too readily and therefore to be easily deceived.

Gullibility can be described as a failure of social intelligence in which a person is easily tricked or manipulated into a course of action for which there is no plausible evidence. To express it positively, gullible people are naively trusting and thus fall for nonsensical propositions. This renders them easy prey for exploiters.

On this blog, we see our fair share of this phenomenon, e.g.:

  • people who are easily persuaded by anecdotes,
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