01/15/2016

The Grifter’s Real Game? Psychology

23:39 minutes

Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Conjurer.” A magician performs the classic cup and balls routine, the basis for the infamous shell game. (Notice the gentleman being pickpocketed!) Via Wikimedia
Hieronymus Bosch’s “The Conjurer.” A magician performs the classic “cups and balls” routine, the basis for the infamous shell game. (Notice the gentleman being pickpocketed!) Via Wikimedia

The grifter, the con artist, the flimflammer—the confidence man (or woman) goes by many names. But what the best of them have in common, according to The Confidence Game author Maria Konnikova, is an uncanny knack for understanding human psychology. From the “put-up” (identifying the victim, or “mark”) to the “blow-off and fix” (when a victim has been thoroughly fleeced and is convinced not to squeal), the master grifter’s techniques string us along, playing on our unconscious biases every step of the way. Konnikova joins guest host Manoush Zomorodi to talk about some of the most successful con games, why they work, and how our own psychology predisposes us to take the grifter’s bait. Read an excerpt about the first “Nigerian Prince” scam here.

Segment Guests

Maria Konnikova

Maria Konnikova is author of The Confidence Game: Why We Fall For It…Every Time (Viking, 2016), and is a contributing writer for The New Yorker. She’s based in New York, New York.

Heard on the Air

Read an excerpt from The Confidence Game, by Maria Konnikova, here.

Meet the Producer

About Annie Minoff

Annie Minoff is co-host and producer of Undiscovered. She also plays the banjo.

Explore More

The First ‘Nigerian Prince’ Scam

As humans, our desire to seem nice can lead us to being conned.

Read More