Summary and book reviews of The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova

The Confidence Game

Why We Fall for It ... Every Time

by Maria Konnikova

The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova
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     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2016, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2017, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
James Broderick

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About this Book

Book Summary

An intriguing investigation into what makes a con artist, and why we continue to be duped by them.

"In this remarkable book, Maria Konnikova shows that human beings are hardwired to believe - often to our peril. And with a deft mix of stories and studies, she explores what that means for how we think and, ultimately, who we are. Deeply researched and elegantly written, The Confidence Game will widen your eyes and sharpen your mind." - Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and To Sell Is Human

From the New York Times bestselling author of Mastermind, a compelling investigation into the minds, motives, and methods of con artists - and the people who fall for their cons over and over again.

While cheats and swindlers may be a dime a dozen, true conmen - the Bernie Madoffs, the Jim Bakkers, the Lance Armstrongs - are elegant, outsized personalities, artists of persuasion and exploiters of trust. How do they do it? Why are they successful? And what keeps us falling for it, over and over again? These are the questions that journalist and psychologist Maria Konnikova tackles in her mesmerizing new book.

From multimillion-dollar Ponzi schemes to small-time frauds, Konnikova pulls together a selection of fascinating stories to demonstrate what all cons share in common, drawing on scientific, dramatic, and psychological perspectives. Insightful and gripping, the book brings readers into the world of the con, examining the relationship between artist and victim. The Confidence Game asks not only why we believe con artists, but also examines the very act of believing and how our sense of truth can be manipulated by those around us.

Excerpt
The Confidence Game

In 1966, Stanford University psychologists Jonathan Freeman and Scott Fraser observed an interesting phenomenon in their experiments: someone who has already agreed to a small request—like opening the door for you—would become more, not less, likely to agree to a larger request later on. In one study, they asked 150 housewives in Palo Alto, California, if they would sacrifice two hours of their time: a research team of five or six people would come to their homes to classify the household products they used. It was, as anyone would agree, a fairly big ask—invasive and time-consuming both. It didn't seem likely that many people would be willing to comply. Some of the women, however, had already been contacted once before. That time, in a phone call, they'd been asked to spare a few minutes to answer some brief questions about their preferred brands of soap.

When Freeman and Fraser looked at the results, they found a striking ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Reading The Confidence Game might not make you immune to all scams and schemes, but it can at least offer you consolation if you ever find yourself wondering how a smart person such as yourself could have ever been so foolish.   (Reviewed by James Broderick).

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Media Reviews

The New Republic

Short of making cynicism your overriding philosophy, the surest safety might be to understand the workings of the con man as he understands you. Understand his psychology, his motivation, his tricks, and his games. Konnikova’s book promises to make life just a little bit harder for con artists everywhere.

The Washington Post

An unnerving manual for conning and getting conned.

Forbes

One of the best science writers of our time examines the minds, motives, and methods of con artists—and the people who fall for their cons.

New York Magazine

Konnikova covers wide-ranging studies in social psychology and illustrates them with colorful stories about real-life con men and women in action.

Time Magazine

A deep (and entertaining) dive into the world of con artists.

Library Journal

This book provides just enough personal narratives and studies to hold the attention of the layperson with a curiosity about the subject, but the heavier discussions and psychological jargon, though well defined, make it ideally suited for those in the psychology or sociology fields.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Told with vigor and enthusiasm, this study of the psychology of the con artist is riveting and cleverly told.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. With meticulous research and a facility for storytelling, Konnikova makes this intriguing topic absolutely riveting.

Author Blurb David Grann, author of The Lost City of Z
Brilliant and enthralling. By plumbing the depths of real stories of swindlers and their victims, and by drawing on new research into the nature of deception, she does more than just show in riveting detail how these cons unfold; she also reveals their hidden psychological dimensions, and why we all may be perfect mark.

Author Blurb Charles Duhigg, Pulitzer Prize–winning reporter and author of The Power of Habit
Maria Konnikova has written a compelling, engrossing account of the world of the con. I stayed up far too late reading it. Beautifully written, and filled with stories and thought-provoking psychological research, The Confidence Game will teach you how confidence artists operate—and how to outwit them

Author Blurb Frank W. Abagnale, subject of the movie, book, and Broadway musical Catch Me If You Can
I found The Confidence Game an excellent resource. The best way to protect oneself from the confidence man is to understand the mind and motivation of the con man.

Author Blurb Jon Ronson, author of So You've Been Publicly Shamed
I really love Maria Konnikova’s writing. In a world of pseudoscience—of extreme polemical thought—her calm rationality is comforting and smart. I appreciate and believe her.

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Beyond the Book

The Great Tulip Mania

Since the beginning of time, humanity has been enchanted by – and paid a small fortune to possess – rare and beautiful objects: diamonds, gold, emeralds…and tulips.

At the peak of the "Great Dutch Tulip Mania of 1637," an event which is covered in The Confidence Game, the most desirable tulip bulbs commanded outrageous sums of money. This floral-infatuation inflation led to the first recorded "economic bubble" – an overvalued and unsustainable market for a product – and was fueled by many of the same strategies con artists use to entice their targets today.

"The line between bubble and con can be a very fine one," argues Maria Konnikova. "They operate on many of the same principles, occur for many of the ...

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