The Confidence Game Book Summary - The Confidence Game Book explained in key points
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The Confidence Game summary

Maria Konnikova

Why We Fall For It . . . Every Time

4.1 (128 ratings)
19 mins
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    The Confidence Game
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    Most of us prefer to know little about others, but con artists thrive on knowing all they can.

    Have you ever sat in a café observing other people and imagining what their lives are like? You might think to yourself that the man sitting in a corner with the messy hair is actually a famous artist.

    Most of us enjoy observing others, but we also tend to avoid finding out too much about them, as this deep knowledge can have its downsides.

    For example, in one experiment, psychologist Jeffrey Simpson asked married couples to watch video footage of each other discussing a difference of opinion. While doing so, they were told to write down their own feelings and what they believed their partner was feeling.

    At the end of the study, the couples were asked how they felt about their spouse and their relationship. It turned out that couples who were less successful at understanding each other’s feelings reported being much happier than those who succeeded.

    This is because we tend to like people less if we can sense that they might find us boring, or if they are being insincere. Therefore, by keeping a safe emotional distance from others, we can prevent ourselves from seeing something we’d rather not.

    On the other hand, understanding someone well enough to spot a flaw or a weakness in them is exactly what a confidence trickster, or con artist, loves to do. In fact, it is what leads them to be successful in their pursuits.

    Take the case of Debra Saalfield: in July of 2008, Debra went to see a clairvoyant after losing her job and her boyfriend. Before Debra said a word about her problems, the clairvoyant closely read Saalfield’s body language and saw that she was very vulnerable.

    This allowed the clairvoyant to expertly trick Debra into writing her a check for $27,000. If she had misread her client, the clairvoyant could have easily ended up in jail. Instead, she closely observed Debra and understood how to take advantage of her emotions.

    But spotting a vulnerable person isn’t everything. As we’ll see in the next blink, a con artist must also be able to win their victim’s trust.

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    What is The Confidence Game about?

    The Confidence Game (2016) reveals exactly how con artists can strike it rich by taking advantage of some major flaws in human nature. Find out why people believe incredibly unlikely stories and ignore incriminating evidence, and discover how basic human trust and optimism can be used to a con artist’s advantage.

    Best quote from The Confidence Game

    I can spot someones weakness a mile away. In any room, I can pick out the best target. – Simon Lovell, former con artist

    —Maria Konnikova
    example alt text

    Who should read The Confidence Game?

    • Aspiring con artists who want to learn how anyone can be fooled
    • People who think they could never be fooled by a con artist
    • Students of human nature and human behavior

    About the Author

    Maria Konnikova is an author with a PhD in psychology. She is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker, writing about topics such as pop psychology and culture. She lives in New York City and is the acclaimed author of Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.

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