We’ve all probably seen a scam or fraud pulled on someone. And when we do, we likely shake our heads and ask: “How could they be so stupid? That could never happen to me. I’m just too smart to have the wool pulled over my eyes like that.” Well, my guest today on the podcast argues that maybe you’re not as clever as you think you are and that you could be duped just as easily given the right circumstances.
Join me for a discussion with Maria Konnikova, author of The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It… Every Time. We discuss the psychology of frauds and scams and how conmen take advantage of mental quirks in the human psyche to dupe even the brightest people.
- Are scam artists made or born?
- Why conmen are some of the most emotionally intelligent people out there
- Are there more conmen than conwomen?
- How scam artists take advantage of our ingrained desire to trust others
- Why being smarter and more intelligent can make you more susceptible to being scammed
- How con artists manipulate your emotions so you stop thinking rationally
- The fuzzy line between marketing and scam artist tactics
- How con artists get victims to convince themselves that the fraud is actually a great idea (even when there’s lots of evidence to the contrary)
- How cognitive dissonance often causes fraud victims NOT to report the fraud
- How we can prevent being scammed while still being trusting
- And much more!
The Confidence Game is jam-packed with fascinating psychological research about what makes for a good scam. Just knowing about the psychology of being duped goes a long way in preventing you from getting duped. The stories of real life cons that Maria weaves into the book also makes it a fun and entertaining read. Pick it up on Amazon.
Listen to the Podcast! (And donâ€™t forget to leave us a review!)
Brett: Brett McKay here and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. Weâ€™ve probably all seen some sort of scam or fraud there is the Bernie Madoff thing a couple of years ago where lots of people got duped into a Ponzi scheme, the Nigerian prince, that guy in Nigeria who wants to sent you lots and lots of money but in order to complete the transaction you got to wire over $100 first, psychics thereâ€™s a ton of them out there.
Whenever we see these things we probably tell ourselves, â€œMan these people are just dump how could they fall for that, how could they not see it was a fraud. I am way too smart that could never happen to me.â€ Well my guest today wrote saying, â€œWell that might not be the case.â€ Her name is Maria Konnikova sheâ€™s the author of the book The Confidence Game, Why We Fall for It â€¦ Every Time.
In it she looks at the psychology of scams and what scam artist do to get inside our brains, to make us convince ourselves that the scam theyâ€™re selling is actually a good idea and how really, really smart people talking doctors, experts in art fall for scams all the time.
How even really smart people can fall for scams and how sometimes theyâ€™re even the easiest people to scam. A really interesting podcast with some great takeaways on how to scam-proof your life. Without further ado Maria Konnikova and The Confidence Game. Maria Konnikova welcome to the show.
Maria: Thank you so much for having me Brett.
Brett: Your new book is called The Confidence Game and itâ€™s all about con artists, fraudsters, scamsters whatever you want to call them and the psychological principles that underlie what makes scam artist able to do what they do. Iâ€™m curious what set-off the research into this book? You did a lot of research into this and was there like a scam artist you came across or a scam, were you scammed and you were like, â€œI need to figure out why Iâ€™m so pre-disposed to being scammed.â€ What happened there?
Maria: I was actually one fine night I was watching House of Games David Mamet’s first movie I believe. Mamet is obsessed with cons and has exploited them in lots of movies, but in this particular movie the protagonist is a woman who is a professional woman. She has a PhD, sheâ€™s a psychologist, sheâ€™s just written this bestselling book. Sheâ€™s a really smart sophisticated person and she falls for this very elaborate long con.
She thinks sheâ€™s one step ahead of the con artists the whole time that sheâ€™s kind of in on it and it ends up that they anticipated that and that actually sheâ€™s not in on it at all and she loses all of her money. She loses a lot of other things too.
At the end of this movie I just thought first of all wow what a different way of looking at the con because normally you see these victims who are just saps and this one really was not. Then I though how does that happen, how does someone who is so intelligent, so savvy and who knows so much about human psychology become a victim. I started trying to find a book that would explain it to me and it didnâ€™t exist so I wrote it.
Brett: There you go I like that and I think Iâ€™ve done that quite a bit too where nothing is out there so you got to find out on your own. You start off the book talking about what makes a con artist, a con artist. The psychology of a con artist and so you really present this very nuanced approach to it. Is a con artist something that youâ€™re born a con artist or is it something that you develop over time or is it a little bit of both?
Maria: Itâ€™s a little bit of both and I think there is definitely a huge component of developing over time. By a little bit of both I mean that there are certainly pre-dispositions, not everyone will become a con artist right? You can put a lot of the same people in a certain situation and most of them will be just fine and one of them will turn to the grift as a way out. That one probably had some sort of pre-disposition toward it.
That said in 99 other situations he might have been just fine as well and so I think what we need to understand itâ€™s that con artists are made really. Itâ€™s pre-disposition but itâ€™s pre-disposition that meets opportunity at the right time, at the right place, at the right point in the personâ€™s life. The exact same person who could become a con artist or a perfectly functional and respected member of society depending on how the chips fall.
Brett: By pre-disposition what is it? Is it psychopathy, Machiavellianism, what is it that makes someone pre-disposed to perhaps being a con artist.
Maria: I talk about the dark triad which is Machiavellianism, narcissism and psychopathy. Any of those three or any combination of those three can give you the necessary pre-disposition. By psychopathy I mean the condition where you donâ€™t really experience emotions the way that other people do. You donâ€™t experience empathy and that really makes you able to take advantage of people because you donâ€™t feel bad for your victims and you canâ€™t feel victims the moment you do youâ€™re no longer a good con artist so thatâ€™s one.
Narcissism because you have to feel like youâ€™re not just the center of the universe but you deserve things, you have things coming to you. You really deserve to have someone elseâ€™s money, you deserve to have their trust, their reputation. Itâ€™s just a real sense of entitlement.
Machiavellianism gives you the ability to persuade other people to do something for your own and directly from Machiavelliâ€™s The Prince from the idea of prince and how heâ€™s able to manipulate those around him.
Brett: One situation like if you went down or if you were put in a certain environment you might become a con artist but if you have these traits you could become an attorney, a politician right?
Maria: Absolutely a marketing genius, an advertising guru all respectable, well some people would say respectable. All legitimate professions.
Brett: Iâ€™m curious if you came across this in your research I donâ€™t remember reading this in your book, but we call scam artists conmen. Are men more predisposed to be con artists than women are or is it pretty cut down the line about the same?
Maria: Thatâ€™s a really, really interesting question and unfortunately there hasnâ€™t been any systematic research into it. I will say that more of them are probably and then women. The reason I say that is because we know that some con artists are psychopaths and we know that almost no psychopaths are women. Itâ€™s fewer than 1% of psychopath are female and so thatâ€™s just a really tiny, tiny percentage.
From that you can make the assumption that there are more con artists who are male and historically we also have more examples of historical conmen who are men rather than conwomen. That said maybe the women are just better so theyâ€™re not getting caught because we know that some of the best spies in history for instance were female are very good at a lot of these types of skills of deception and manipulation.
Brett: As I was reading the traits of the good con artist and by good I mean theyâ€™re good at conning. I was uncomfortable because I thought there was a very hazy line between being an emotionally intelligent person and being a good conman. For example you talk about the Q test. Can you explain what the Q test is and Iâ€™ll share the test that I, it was similar to that but it gives a different outcome or a different interpretation?
Maria: Sure so that test was described by Richard Wiseman and basically what it asks is that you put your index finger of whatever your dominant hand is to your forehead and you draw the letter Q. Iâ€™m assuming now youâ€™ve done it and then you look well which way did you draw it. Is the tail facing to the right as you look at it or to the left? Have you drawn it from your own perspective or from the perspective of someone who is looking at you?
What this test shows is that people who draw it from the perspective of others are more sensitive to how theyâ€™re perceive, theyâ€™re more sensitive to how others respond to them. They want to create a better image of themselves in the eyes of others and so those types of people probably have a slightly higher tendency towards the types of things that go along with being a con artist. Iâ€™m not saying that they are con artist Iâ€™m saying that they have some of those same underlying pre-dispositions that make people want to deceive.
Brett: When I read that the version I heard was the E test where you draw an E on your forehead and if you do it in the way that you write the E so that someone whoâ€™s looking at you would see it like a forward facing E. Well that meant well youâ€™re an emotionally intelligent person you have empathy. When I did that I was like oh thatâ€™s how I did I drew it how someone they could see it right. Iâ€™m like, â€œWow Iâ€™m an emotionally intelligent person.â€
Then when I read about the Q test in your book and their interpretation Iâ€™m like, â€œWait maybe Iâ€™m a psychopath and like Iâ€™m possibly have tendencies to deceive.â€ Is that what you found when you were doing your research there is sort of a blurry between are conmen emotionally intelligent people or super emotionally intelligent people
Maria: Absolutely oh my god yes, conmen are people and by the way you can be incredibly emotionally intelligent and be a psychopath because you can understand people well enough that you donâ€™t experience emotional empathy, you experience cognitive empathy. In some ways cognitive empathy is actually stronger because youâ€™re really able to go into someone elseâ€™s shoes youâ€™re not blocked by emotion. Whereas the emotional intelligence, the emotional side of empathy you often have things that stand in the way.
Good con artists are definitely people who are phenomenal at reading others, they can read the most subtle signs in order to take advantage of them they need to be. They need to be extremely wonderful psychologists in a sense because thatâ€™s how theyâ€™re able to find their victims, find the weak spots of their victims and take advantage of them.
Brett: Weâ€™ll talk a little bit about how they do that in a little bit here but before we get there letâ€™s just talk about the Mark right us. Who might possibly be getting scammed by the con artist? Why are we so bad at spotting liars and frauds? You were saying like the lady who thought she was really smart and she was ahead of these scam artists in the movie but she really wasnâ€™t.
Often times the stories you share of the victims like they never knew until the very end some of these people could really and smart like they had double degrees, PhDs and they still couldnâ€™t see that they were getting duped. Why are we so bad at that?
Maria: There are two reasons, reason number one itâ€™s actually more evolutionary advantageous to trust people than it is to spot deceptions because deceptions often make society go round and function well, it makes get along with others because all of the little white lies that we tell each other are really essential for people to get along.
If no one lied and if you were able to catch everyone who lied people would be so pissed off at each other all the time. It would not be a very pleasant place to live. Thatâ€™s the first part of it. The second part of it is that we are phenomenally good at self-deception. Basically the best con artists of all are ourselves because we really are able to rationalize almost anything in order to fit with a certain image of ourselves.
A lot of people even when they should see that theyâ€™re being conned, they donâ€™t because they donâ€™t want to admit that they could be so foolish. They rationalize a way and they make up all of these excuses and at the end of the day they donâ€™t even realize sometimes they have been conned. A lot of people at the end will say, â€œOh I was just unlucky,â€ they wonâ€™t admit it even when they have the evidence right in front of them.
Brett: I guess con artist are just taking advantage of this evolution, like theyâ€™re evolutionary freeloaders in a way, kind of a way to describe them theyâ€™re taking advantage of the fact that most people are trusting?
Maria: Yes absolutely.
Brett: Itâ€™s interesting I learned a lot about con artist and there seems it is sort of an artistry thereâ€™s like things that they pass on to one another and they learn things and itâ€™s sort of a system and it is a techne right and they have different names for different parts of the con.
You break it down and you talk about the psychological biases that conmen use or take advantage of in each part of the con. You started off talking about the put-up, what is the put-up and what psychological biases or psychological advantages that conmen use to get the put-up going?
Maria: The put-up is the first stage of the con where you really profile and identify your victim. In some ways itâ€™s the most important part in order for the con to ultimately be successful because if you choose the right victim and if you size your victim up properly then you can really sell him just about anything.
What you need to do this is some of what we were talking about with empathy and with being able to really understand someone else and not just understand them in terms of their personality but emotionally where theyâ€™re coming from, what drives them, what they want, what their deepest needs are.
Psychics are really, really good at this because they do something called the cold read where they can look at you, they look at your body language, they look at what youâ€™re wearing, they look at things that you say and theyâ€™re able to tell you things that you donâ€™t realize youâ€™ve given them the information to discern because we are always throwing off cues without even realizing it.
Itâ€™s something thatâ€™s very subtle, it can be something along the lines of, â€œOh youâ€™re from New York too arenâ€™t you?â€ or â€œYouâ€™re not from New York either correct?â€ Itâ€™s the exact same sentence and phrased in a way where we will then tell them yes or no and then they will use that information to get even more from us and we wonâ€™t realize that we gave it to them.
Itâ€™s this beautiful dance where theyâ€™re able to get so much from us that we donâ€™t really realize weâ€™re telling them. Thatâ€™s one of the ways that theyâ€™re able to figure out what do you want, what can I sell you?
Brett: Speaking of the psychics it seems like by the nature of their profession theyâ€™re self-selecting their marks, theyâ€™re finding certain people who are probably more pre-disposed to being conned in the first place because they know something about that person already because theyâ€™re coming to see a psychic right?
Maria: Absolutely a lot of cons come with a pre-selection mechanism. Like the 419 Scam, the Nigerian scam that you will see in your email. Thereâ€™s a fabulous inheritance if only your can just give them the small wire transfer fee. A lot of those have really bad typos, spelling errors, bad English and you think how in the world, â€œDoesnâ€™t this person know what a spell checker is?â€
Well hereâ€™s the short answer is yes they do and they used to send very wonderful literate emails and the thing that happened is they go too many answers. Then they had to really work hard to weed out the suckers. Now such a poorly written email only the true suckers respond so itâ€™s a pre-selecting mechanism so they donâ€™t need to work nearly as hard.
Brett: A lot of scams do have one step before hand where theyâ€™re already selecting victims. It doesnâ€™t even need to be like the Nigerian scam, it can be something like cat fishing sweetheart scam on a romance or by their virtue or sending on to romance to a match making site. Youâ€™re already saying about yourself, youâ€™re saying that you want a relationship that youâ€™re lonely, that you want some sort of connection. Youâ€™re already self-selecting in a sense into a pool of potential victims.
Brett: Got you, after theyâ€™ve identified their mark and I guess the conman is using their emotional intelligence and depthness to figure this out. How do they get the victim to start trusting them because most people they donâ€™t trust strangers right away even though weâ€™re a trusting species we do put up a front for a little bit, but conmen are somehow able to take down that guard. What exactly do they do or psychological biases within us that they manipulate to bring that down?
Maria: They do a few things one that I think is quite easy and quite easy to understand as well is their ability to fake similarity and familiarity. Which are two of the markers that we use to try to figure out whether or not we like someone and liking often comes right along with trusting.
First thereâ€™s similarity then itâ€™s how much this person resemble me and we tend to trust people who are more like us and we tend to distrust people who are less like us and this is a really, really engrained way of looking at the world. It can be very superficial things like we like people who like the same sports team that we like.
It doesnâ€™t need to be a very â€¦ the person is my age and weâ€™re cool and heâ€™s in the same profession although all of those things help and similarity is remarkably easy to fake because itâ€™s like what we were talking about with the psychics. All you need to do is read a few cues from the person and then you pretend that you are exactly the same.
If you think about how many first dates seem very promising and you initially have very good relationship, and then this person isnâ€™t at all who I thought because they were really faking that similarity. Well a con artist doesnâ€™t need to do it for the length of a relationship, a con artist just needs a few good first dates in order to hook you and thatâ€™s quite easy to do.
The other is familiarity which is do I recognize you, are you someone who I feel comfortable with just because I see you around a lot? Weâ€™re much more likely to trust someone who is our neighbor and we see all the time or even someone who we see at our local gym. Just by the sheer virtue of seeing them around they become a familiar presence and this is something called the Mere-exposure effect. Where merely being exposed to something or someone makes us like that thing or that person more.
A con artist can do something like start dropping in at your local coffee shop and even saying high to you on some mornings. All of a sudden youâ€™re much more likely to trust that person when they finally strike up a conversation just because youâ€™ve already seen them multiple times. Those are kind of very basic things that can happen in order to establish that baseline level of trust.
Brett: As youâ€™re talking about that it seems like this is very easy to do on the internet right online you can fake similarity very easy and then the familiarity aspect you just interact with people via Twitter or Facebook frequently you can build that trust even though youâ€™ve never seen this person in person.
Maria: Absolutely one of the things I learned when writing this book is never accept a Facebook request unless you know exactly who the person because thatâ€™s the way the con artists are able to infiltrate networks. Because then once you get one weak link certainly youâ€™re in my friend network then the next person is more likely to accept your friend request because you know me and so youâ€™ve already been vetted and all of a sudden weâ€™ve got 20 friends in common of course you must be a decent person.
Brett: Weâ€™ve got the mark, theyâ€™ve built that trust the next step is the play. Whatâ€™s the play and what psychological biases do con artists take advantage of to get the play going?
Maria: The play is all about emotion, itâ€™s about really telling the story thatâ€™s going to emotionally involve the person. Now you trust me I am going to make you emotionally invested in this. The psychological principle in the play is that when we are feeling emotional we stop thinking rationally, emotion really clouds our judgment and we make decisions that are much worse. In general we just donâ€™t look at the world in the same way that we normally would, our logic falls by the wayside and thatâ€™s the goal of this stage.
If you can get someone really hot and really riled up then basically they stop thinking critically and they start believing what you say rather than questioning it. It might be a question of telling a sob story and they become very empathetic thatâ€™s basically you have to be a story teller and a story teller whoâ€™s able to engage and marks emotions. Because the moment that the emotions are on high thatâ€™s when you have them, thatâ€™s when they stop thinking critically.
Brett: Itâ€™s not just stories some of them I guess cults take advantage of this sort of thing too right. They seclude people and just really get people thinking emotionally instead of rationally. They do all these sort of exercises to get people crying, yelling doing all these stuff.
Maria: Absolutely I think thatâ€™s a really strong technique and it also makes them bond with the people that theyâ€™re with rather than the outside world. Itâ€™s a two pronged approach in that particular case.
Brett: The stories donâ€™t even have to be a sob story, you gave some examples of some cons of stories about buried treasure from a pirate that â€¦ and people got really into it and I guess they get really emotional about that because it plays on, I donâ€™t know excitement, wonder, adventure. It doesnâ€™t have to be your typical emotional sob story to be a good play.
Maria: Absolutely not, it could be any sort of a good story that has an emotional component and our emotions can definitely be engaged in any number of ways. We need to be careful not just when somebody gives you a story of, â€œOh Iâ€™m so sorry I need to make it to my kid whoâ€™s in the hospital,â€ but, â€œOh my god this is so incredibly excited, I have just found this treasure and Iâ€™m going to share it with you.â€ Thatâ€™s also a story and thatâ€™s also pretty emotional.
Brett: As I was reading this I was like, â€œThis is like what marketers do,â€ they tell stories about brands Iâ€™m like, â€œAre marketers conmen I mean whatâ€™s going on here?â€
Maria: Absolutely well you know itâ€™s a thin line, itâ€™s a really thin line between advertising, marketing and cons.
Brett: Speaking of the marketing tactics you have the next section about the rope and you go through a list of tactics that con artist use to get people hooked into the con. I thought it was interesting itâ€™s like these are the same that Iâ€™ve read about in advertising books or marketing books even like rhetoric being persuasive when youâ€™re speaking publicly. What are some of the tactics used in the rope?
Maria: Iâ€™ll tell you about one of them which I think is quite effective. It is the door in the face technique and that is first you get someone to slam the door in your face so you ask them for something outrageously big and they obviously say no and they slam the door in your face. Then you probably feel really guilty because it doesnâ€™t make you feel like a very, very good person to slam the door in someoneâ€™s face.
The next time you come knocking and you ask them for something that seems much more reasonable and comparison, which by the way can still be a very big favor but just compared to the first thing that you asked itâ€™s quite reasonably. This guilty feeling person is going to say yes because they feel bad for slamming the door in your face the first time around.
This is such a brilliant psychological maneuver and it works beautifully. Iâ€™ve had it done on me actually Iâ€™ve realized in retrospect where people have asked me to volunteer for a day with some organization, I donâ€™t even remember which organization, and I just couldnâ€™t do it because it was â€¦ my time I just was in no position to say yes but then when they asked me to then donate a piece of my writing also for free which I never do I have rule of never write for free.
I did it because I felt guilty for not volunteering for a day and thatâ€™s a classic door in the face and con artists love doing those because we really donâ€™t want to feel guilty itâ€™s a really bad feeling and so weâ€™ll do almost anything to assuage our guilt.
Brett: I love this chapter itâ€™s great for being on the lookout for something awesome I donâ€™t know. How can I use this to persuade other people to possibly do things that they need to do for â€¦ if Iâ€™m a leader or a manger itâ€™s great tactics so thereâ€™s a lot to learn from conmen was one of the things I got from the book.
You talked about the tail and this goes back to what you said earlier about human being weâ€™re like the ultimate â€¦ weâ€™re the best con artist. We convince ourselves, weâ€™re good at self-deception. The tail is the part where the conmen, actually the conmen doesnâ€™t do anything.
The victim starts convincing themselves, the plan is actually great how does that happen, how does something that seems if youâ€™re really smart or intelligent how do you start convincing that this actually I can definitely make a lot of money from this even though I know itâ€™s probably too good to be true.
Well because we are very, very good at and I love that you phrased it the way that you did because you just said, â€œItâ€™s probably too good to be true.â€ At this point you have to remember that weâ€™ve already gone through all the other stages of the con so they trust this person, weâ€™re feeling some sort of connection with them, weâ€™re already emotionally invested.
We latch on to that word probably because we think well itâ€™s probably too good to be true, but probably look and in this particular case I deserve it. We instead of thinking itâ€™s too good to be true start thinking actually no itâ€™s not really too good to be true. I deserve my lucky break, Iâ€™ve been working really hard for this. I deserve whatever it is that weâ€™re dealing with in this particular con.
We just change our mindset completely because we want to justify everything that we felt and gone through up to this point and weâ€™re so incredibly good at justifying that and saying well thereâ€™s a reason I like this person, thereâ€™s a reason I trust this person, thereâ€™s a reason Iâ€™m emotionally involved in this story.
That reason is that itâ€™s a good story, itâ€™s a good person. Iâ€™m doing everything correctly and no this is not something thatâ€™s too good to be true actually this makes a whole lot of sense and because we have many externality biases. Which means we like to feel ourselves exceptional in almost any respect those really play into this particular stage of the con because we can use those to justify almost anything.
Brett: Right and so thereâ€™s a lot going on here, yeah you talk about IT in the book that well people think weâ€™re human beings, weâ€™re the rational animal. I know a lot of people that say, â€œYeah Iâ€™m very logical and blah, blah, blah,â€ but like the research says itâ€™s not true we actually feel something first and then we come up with reason afterwards to justify those feelings or like we make a decision where there are emotions first and then we come up with the reason in expose factor right?
Maria: Yes, thatâ€™s exactly what happens. We justify our decision after the fact and we think but we do it so well that we convince ourselves that actually we did it before. We have this just very perverse secular logic and when it happens to someone else youâ€™re very well able to spot it, when it happens to yourself you never think it, you never think that itâ€™s happening to you.
Brett: I love the emphasis on how we deceive ourselves in thinking that weâ€™re above average and that weâ€™ll get duped and maybe this time it will work for us because weâ€™re smart and weâ€™re great. Thereâ€™s a name is it the Lake Wobegon effect is that what itâ€™s called or is there something else? Thereâ€™s another name for it.
Maria: Lake Wobegon effect yes and there are lots of other names for it but it all comes down to the same thing which is thereâ€™s stuff, the very simple name for it is the better than average effect. One of my favorite illustrations of this was the study that was done in the hospital of people who had just gotten into car accidents and a good number of those people had actually caused the accident themselves.
What the researchers did was ask them what kind of a driver they were and everyone said that they were an above average driver even the people who had caused the car accidents and were in the hospital. Which is kind of crazy but it shows just how strong this effect is.
Brett: Thatâ€™s good to know not only to avoid being conned but itâ€™s great jut life advice realizing, â€œHey no way I think Iâ€™m smarter than I am but maybe Iâ€™m not as smart as I think I am,â€ you can make a lot of progress in life with that sort of attitude.
Maria: Absolutely but itâ€™s a hard attitude to maintain because deep down inside you still think youâ€™re smart.
Brett: Right even though, there comes in every con, well not every con because now sometimes cons donâ€™t even get discovered but in lot of in some cons where things start breaking and the victim or the marks starts realizing something is up. What happens psychologically whenever we realize weâ€™re being duped, do we suddenly like see thereâ€™s a parapateia weâ€™re like yeah okay Iâ€™m being duped in. Iâ€™m just going to stop doing this or is there something going on we try to convince ourselves well no maybe itâ€™s not as bad as we think we are and itâ€™s okay.
Maria: This is where that concept of cognitive dissonance really comes into play and that means that as soon as we see red flags. Itâ€™s much easier to dismiss the red flags than to admit that weâ€™ve been wrong. Thatâ€™s exactly what we do we engage in whatâ€™s called dissonance reduction, we try to reduce the mismatch between what we think and the evidence that weâ€™re seeing.
We do that by saying this evidence doesnâ€™t make sense by explaining it away and so we see the red flags but we say, â€œOh itâ€™s not actually a red flag look, doesnâ€™t it look pink to you? Itâ€™s not even a flag itâ€™s a handkerchief, itâ€™s a pink handkerchief okay Iâ€™m good.â€ Thatâ€™s exactly what we do with all of these times that we might be getting coned.
A lot of people by the end of the con so weâ€™re getting to the stage of the final stage of the con a lot of people even then wonâ€™t realize theyâ€™ve been conned because they were so good at reducing dissonance and convincing themselves that no con is actually happening.
Brett: You gave a great example of it was like the guy who did the first Ponzi before Ponzi. The guy who started the investment fund and even when people realized the law enforcement was in on it, theyâ€™re closing the bank down, thereâ€™s little of his â€˜bankâ€™ and people were like, â€œYeah thereâ€™s something is going on here,â€ but they still had people come into the bank like, â€œI want to deposit more money, heâ€™s a great guy.â€ It was insane what happened like he even made more money while he was getting discovered that he was a fraud.
Maria: Heâ€™s not the only one this happens again and again. The first time you say well Franklin was just a really this was the guy who ran the Franklin syndicate the con you were talking about. He must have just been really good at this and he was donâ€™t get me wrong but con artist tend to be very good at this …
Some of my favorite stories involves people who ended up paying the legal fees for the people who conned them when the con artist was already on trial. A lot of times the victims are the ones who end up paying.
Brett: What I thought was interesting too is that most people who are conned and they find out about it. They donâ€™t report it and thatâ€™s why like financial fraud is one of the most under-reported crimes in America or in the world. What is it why donâ€™t people report it is this like a sense of shame whatâ€™s going on there?
Maria: Well I think itâ€™s two things, one is reputation management. People donâ€™t want others to know that they could have been so stupid and they really want to preserve their reputation even at the cost of knowing that this person is still out there doing the same thing to others. The second thing is you might so incredibly good at self-deception at all these biases that you and I have talked about that you donâ€™t realize that youâ€™ve been conned and you persist in saying that you were not a victim even after the con is done.
A lot of people will say itâ€™s just bad luck it could have gone the other way, I wasnâ€™t conned this is not a con artist I would invest with him again if the chance came around. I think that thatâ€™s the other reason why people donâ€™t end up reporting it.
Brett: As I was reading this book it made me uncomfortable in a lot of some places, but also Iâ€™m like, â€œMan I donâ€™t want to get scammed but it looks like my brain is waging a war against me and trying to get me scammed and do.â€ What are some things we can do like just you brass-tack things that people can do to steal themselves from being scanned. Hereâ€™s the catch like while still being a trusting and caring person at the same time.
Maria: I think that thatâ€™s a very important distinction because we donâ€™t want to be someone whoâ€™s just completely emotionally closed off, thatâ€™s not a very good way to be. I think one thing that we can do is to really try to know ourselves as well as we can, try to do the put up on ourselves, try to do a self-analysis in the way that a con artist would. What are the things that drive me, what are the things that are important to me, what are the things that I want, what are my weak spots?
Then when something happens that really falls into one of those categories you should certainly have little red flags in your head and a little alert that say, â€œWait this is exactly what I want and now itâ€™s happening let me analyze whatâ€™s going on here. Is it because Iâ€™ve done something and it really should be happening or is it because this really nice man who well I only met him a week ago but heâ€™s awesome is offering something or is telling me something that fits into that.
Itâ€™s a really difficult actually piece of advice to give because what it say is the moments where you want to be the least skeptical because no one wants to question when good things happen, people want to question when bad things happen. At those moment where you want to be the least skeptical you actually need to be the most skeptical. Thatâ€™s the single most important thing you can do to try to avoid being scammed.
Brett: Maria where can people find out more about The Confidence Game?
Maria: They can go to my website which has links to a whole lot of stuff about the book and thatâ€™s just my firstname.mylast.com so Mariakonnikoa.com.
Brett: Well Maria thank you so much for your time itâ€™s been a pleasure.
Maria: Thank you so much Brett I really enjoyed this.
Brett: My guest today was Maria Konnikova sheâ€™s the other of the book The Confidence Game and you can find that on amazon.com and bookstores everywhere. You can find out more information about her work at Mariakonnikova.com.
That wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast for more manly tips and advice make sure to check out the art of manliness website theartofmanliness.com com If you enjoyed this podcast Iâ€™d really appreciate it if you give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher, help us get the word about the show. As always thank you for your continued support and until next time this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.