Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Key to the Con


The key to a con is not that you trust the conman, but that he shows he trusts you. Conmen ply their trade by appearing fragile or needing help, by seeming vulnerable. [T]he human brain makes us feel good when we help others--this is the basis for attachment to family and friends and cooperation with strangers. "I need your help" is a potent stimulus for action.

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Cons often work better when a confederate poses as an innocent bystander who "just wants to help." We are social creatures after all, and we often do what others think we should do.

My laboratory studies of college students have shown that two percent of them are "unconditional nonreciprocators." That's a mouthful! This means that when they are trusted they don't return money to person who trusted them (these experiments are described in my post on neuroeconomics). What do we really call these people in my lab? Bastards. Yup, not folks that you would want to have a cup of coffee with. These people are deceptive, don't stay in relationships long, and enjoy taking advantage of others. Psychologically, they resemble sociopaths. Bastards are dangerous because they have learned how to simulate trustworthiness.

Psychology Today


I trust you to do the right thing and vote for me.

Secretly, you're thinking: I get more out of the deal.

Modern society and democracy will turn us all into unconditional nonreciprocators.

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Subvert the dominant paradigm, don't be a solipsist.

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