Psychology

There is an intriguing hypothesis about the rational mind: while we think of it as a weigher of evidence that contributes to the decisions we make when faced with a choice, it’s possible that its real role is to construct a story after the fact about why we made the choice we did for instinctive […]

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The gradual sorting of partisans into the “correct” parties during the last fifty years has transformed a nation of cross-cutting political identities into a nation of increasingly aligned political identities. As Democrats and Republicans grow socially sorted, they have to contend not only with the natural bias that comes from being a partisan but also […]

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Even in the most basic definition of a group, [social psychologist Henri] Tajfel and his colleagues found evidence of ingroup bias: a preference for or privileging of the ingroup over the outgroup. In every conceivable iteration of this experiment, people privileged the group to which they had been randomly assigned. Ingroup bias emerged even when […]

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But the Patten con [an evangelical congregation cultivated and exploited for self-enrichment of the preachers] wasn’t just any scam. It was the scam of all scams—the one that gets to the heart of why confidence games not only work but thrive the world over, no matter how many expert debunkers and vocal victims there may […]

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The confidence game starts with basic human psychology. From the artist’s perspective, it’s a question of identifying the victim (the put-up): who he is, what does he want, and how can I play on that desire to achieve what I want? It requires the creation of empathy and rapport (the play): an emotional foundation must […]

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In the 1950s, the linguist David Maurer began to delve more deeply into the world of confidence men than any had before him. He called them, simply, “aristocrats of crime.” Hard crime—outright theft or burglary, violence, threats—is not what the confidence artist is about. The confidence game—the con—is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, […]

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On one of today’s walks I listened to an unusually good episode of the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast: The Confidence Game. I ordered Maria Konnikova’s book The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It… Every Time and will read David Maurer’s 1940 book The Big Con when I go back to visiting libraries. […]

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Perhaps the hardest thing about doing a PhD in Toronto is finding decent housing and paying for it with the kind of income the university’s funding package and TA work provides. Since the 2008 financial crisis, governments around the world have undertaken exceptional monetary and fiscal stimulus to try to sustain employment and economic growth. […]

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Let’s begin with two simple premises: The amount of climate change the world experiences depends on the total quantity of fossil fuels that get burned. As such, there is little value in avoiding burning particular coal, oil, and gas reserves in one time period if we then burn them in another In Canada, the US, […]

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780 km of exercise walks since August have brought me much into contact with people on the sidewalks and pathways of Toronto. Particularly in the last couple of months, I have had the sense that people in general are stressed, frayed, and emotionally on-edge. I see this in their egocentrism: their determination to do as […]

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