Review: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time

The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every TimeThe Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time by Maria Konnikova
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Must read. “The Confidence Game” is one of those books that you’ll find yourself referring back to, over and over, reflecting on the lessons contained within and how you can apply them to your own life. But far from being a self-help book or a guide on how not to get scammed, it’s also intensely fascinating and full of history and psychology. It’s very likely that you’ll experience a bout of intense cynicism after reading it, however; I couldn’t help but reflect on the times when I might have fallen for a scam myself (usually the “I need a few bucks to get home” variety). And of course, I wonder about all the possible scams that I might have encountered without even realizing it, which is more than a little troubling.

Regardless, “the Confidence Game” is as alluring and engaging as any good con artist might be. It’s the kind of book that stays with you, that keeps you thinking long after you’ve finished it, and that’s as much a testament to Konnikova’s good writing style as it is the importance of the subject itself. And if it helps you avoid a scam in the future; well, that’s just a bonus. Even if the research suggests that overestimating our abilities makes us more likely to fall for a scam, so it’s possible you might actually be more likely to be scammed after reading this book. Such is the dark web that the con artist weaves. Regardless, you should still read the book.

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3 thoughts on “Review: The Confidence Game: Why We Fall for It . . . Every Time”

  1. On your recommendation, I just listened through this as an audiobook. Very interesting read, but I think it oversells the threat of the con.

    Konnikova’s approach seems to be that “You’re always at risk of a con because you’re not as rational as you think.” While there’s undoubtedly some truth to that, I think the more fundamental reason why cons work is touched on only briefly: most people are honest and life is better when you trust honest people. We don’t get conned because we’re stupid or gullible, but because there’s a 99.9% chance that people aren’t con artists.

    If you like this book, I highly recommend the podcast “You Are Not So Smart,” which is all about cognitive errors that people have.

    1. I’m always on the hunt for new podcasts, I’ll take a look. Thanks for the recommendation.

      To be fair, I do think the fear of the con itself is oversold. Going by the simple numbers, if most people are decent, your personal risk of being conned is rather low.

      On the other hand, I think cultivating the mindset of being on the watch for scams is valuable. It may not root out anyone trying to con you out of money, but it encourages healthy skepticism, I think. Asking yourself “what’s this person’s angle” is valuable, especially online and when looking at news stories.

    2. I think there’s also a book by that same title (You Are Not So Smart). Jenn recommended it to me a while back; haven’t gotten around to reading it yet. I wonder if the author is the same as the podcast?

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