151: Why everyone falls for con artists (Maria Konnikova)

January 24, 2016

You’ve probably heard about victims of con artists — like the people who hand over their life savings to sketchy gurus or psychics, or the people who wire thousands of dollars to a “Nigerian prince” who just needs some help getting his far bigger fortune to you. And you’ve probably thought to yourself, “What a sucker. I’d never fall for something like that.” But are you sure? 

In this episode of Rationally Speaking, Julia interviews Maria Konnikova, science journalist and author of “The Confidence Game: Why we fall for it… Every time,” who explains why con artists are so effective that even the best of us are vulnerable. Along the way, they explore questions like: Why do people refuse to believe they’ve been conned? Are con artists getting more sophisticated over time? And how do con artists view themselves — do they rationalize their actions, or are they impassive sociopaths?

Transcript (PDF)