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The Confidence Game: The Psychology of the Con and Why We Fall for It Every Time Paperback – 19 Jan 2017

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Canongate Books; Main edition (19 Jan. 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1782113916
  • ISBN-13: 978-1782113911
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 22,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


"A fascinating look at the psychology behind every hustle" (Economist)

"The story of the con artist may be unmatched for combining human interest with insight into human nature, and star psychology writer Maria Konnikova explains their wiles to us with her characteristic clarity, flair and depth" (STEVEN PINKER)

"Remarkable . . . The Confidence Game will widen your eyes and sharpen your mind" (DANIEL H. PINK)

"In a world of pseudoscience, Maria Konnikova's calm rationality is comforting and smart" (JON RONSON)

"If you liked Malcolm Gladwell's Blink, you'll love this lucid and revelatory look into our oh-so-susceptible selves" (ERIK LARSON author of The Devil in the White City)

"Fascinating stories of some fantastically elaborate cons" (Spectator)

"One of the best science writers of our time" (Forbes)

"There's a lot to be learned about human nature from the con's enduring success. And Konnikova is an insightful analyst of the dark art of ­the scam. Konnikova has learned at least one thing from the con artists she studied: Always leave your marks wanting more" (New York Times)

"Maria Konnikova breaks down the psychology of schemes, scams, tricks and frauds across the centuries in The Confidence Game an unnerving manual for conning and getting conned . . . fortunately, the cons are usually entertaining and the studies revealing" (Washington Post)

"A gripping examination of exactly why so many of us are such suckers for schemes that shut down our saner instincts" (Vice)

"Konnikova covers wide-ranging studies in social psychology and illustrates them with colorful stories about real-life con men and women in action" (New York Magazine)

"A thrilling psychological detective story investigating how con artists prey on our propensity for believing what we wish were true and how this illuminates the inner workings of trust and deception in our everyday lives . . . a tapestry of riveting real-life con artist profiles interwoven with decades of psychology experiments. What makes the book especially pleasurable is that Konnikova's intellectual rigor comes with a side of warm wit . . . thoroughly fascinating" (Brainpickings)

"An engaging read: between studies and statistics, Konnikova threads her examination with rich narratives of historical swindles" (Los Angeles Review of Books)

"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" (CHARLES DUHIGG author of The Power of Habit)

"An enthralling read about why we're all vulnerable to deception, by one of the truly gifted social science writers of our time. This book shook my confidence in my ability to detect fraud - and then showed me how to improve my skills" (ADAM GRANT author of Give and Take and Originals)

"What magic takes place when a smooth talking stranger convinces you to part with everything you have? Maria Konnikova is a superb storyteller and her tales of conmen and their victims will blow your mind. The Confidence Game is a masterful exploration of human psychology - Konnikova uses the art of the con to explore some striking claims about kindness and cruelty, memory and reputation, the power of stories, and the very nature of the self. This is a brilliant and often unsettling book, and it leaves me with mixed feelings - I'd like everyone to read it, but at the same time, it scares me to think of it falling into the wrong hands" (PAUL BLOOM author of Just Babies)

"Gripping . . . Konnikova has a gift for bringing out the drama, poignancy and (if you're not the victim) the humor in the elaborate deceptions she describes" (

"Exceptional . . . a brisk, engaging overview of the ways these skilled tricksters masterfully manipulate us to their own ends" (Boston Globe)

"Fantastical . . . a quick and enjoyable read about con-artistry" (Spiked)

"Irresistably fascinating" (Sunday Herald)

Book Description

An investigation into the minds, motives and methods of con artists by a New York Times bestselling psychologist

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is a book about cons, here is a rundown of each chapter's contents along with what I think are the most important parts.

This chapter introduces the grifter( conner) and mark(victim), are some people born grifters, it is nature or/and nurture that creates them? Contrary to what you might think there is no such thing as a typical mark, different people fall for different scams and emotional turmoil can make people more susceptible to scams in general.

This chapter covers how the grifter finds the mark and discovers their weaknesses. Familiarity and trust are used to seduce the mark. Fake fortune tellers are used to illustrate these points.

This chapter is how powerful emotions can override people's logic and reason, when delivered through a compelling narrative it makes for potent stuff. Different emotions effect people in different ways effecting how they can be duped.

The rope is the persuasion used by the grifter, some examples are claiming to be an authority figure(because people respect and obey authority figures), asking for a small amount then once the mark says yes asking for a large amount ( works better than just asking for a large amount because giving a small amount puts the person in a giving mood), or the opposite asking for a huge amount that is rejected then asking for a smaller amount ( works better than just asking for the smaller amount because the mark feels guilty for turning down the large amount).
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By Hande Z TOP 500 REVIEWER on 29 Jan. 2016
Format: Paperback
Confidence tricksters set themselves upon us ever so often. Sometimes we are taken in and sometimes not. There are likely many times that we have been conned without even knowing it. Konnikova explains why that is so.

We must first know what the confidence game is about. When a person cheats, is he invariably a confidence trickster? Can he be just someone hard on luck and cheated out of desperation? It is not easy to judge as Konnikova shows in some of her accounts.
This is a fascinating book for its identification and analysis of the way a confidence trick is carried out, what a conman requires to succeed, and how we fall victims to fraud.

Konnikova tells us that the conman needs to be very accurate in knowing what factors his victim uses to judge him, and armed with that knowledge, he knows who he can pick as his victim. That is first part of the scam - the ‘put-up’ (identifying the victim and gaining his trust). Next the conman has to make his ‘play’ – that is, to execute his move – usually through the manipulation of the victim’s emotion. Then Konnikova explains ‘the rope’ – the various strategies used by conmen. An example is the technique of promising more. Invariably, the conman will spin a tale; and it will be a very convincing one.

Konnikova also explores our own vulnerabilities that make us susceptible to a confidence fraud. We too can pick up tricks that may help us expose the con played on us. For example, conmen thrived because they promise things that are tempting but impossible to prove, usually of events that are so far off in the future – take his word for it, as it were. That is how Ponzi schemes work. That is how Bernie Madoff pulled it off for more than 20 years. Had he died before he was exposed, no one might have been the wiser.

The stories of fraud that Konnikova uses to make her points are amazing and we might wonder whether we might have ourselves fallen for them had we been in the victims’ place.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very interesting read about the confidence game. Arguments are engaging and made really well. I started reading thinking that I would never fall for some of these tricks and finished with the stark realisation that I actually have many times. You dont fall prey to a con because you are stupid, you fall prey to a con because you are human.

The anecdotes and insights into the mind, suggestion and influence found in this book are valuable. Plus the brief look into religion and cults will want you to understand these particular human phenomena further!
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is well worth reading – £7.07 well spent, considering one might lose in a con.

The book does not deal with the history of cons but instead the psychology. One of the questions I wanted to know the answer to was “what is the profile of typical mark?” The answer surprised me – there is no typical mark. Even con men get conned by other con men (strange though that may seem – and the book gives examples of grifters who became marks). (By the way, a grifter is a con man/woman and a mark is the victim)). In other words, if someone tried a particular con on you, you might see it for what it is today but under other circumstances you might fall for it. As the book puts it:

“…it’s not who you are but where you happen to be at this particular moment in your life. If you’re feeling isolated or lonely, it turns out you’re particularly vulnerable. Likewise, if you’re going through a job loss, divorce, serious injury, or other major life change, are experiencing a downturn in personal finances, or are concerned with being in debt. People in debt, in fact, are more likely to fall for fraud that’s completely unrelated to finances, like weight-loss products”.

The book explains it as “when we’re feeling low, we want to get out of the slump. So, schemes or propositions that would look absurd in another light suddenly seem more attractive”.

This was a revelation to me.

The author gives case studies to illustrate her points. To illustrate the one above about emotional vulnerability, she gives a case study of a woman who fell for a “Three Card Monte” trick in New York City. The mark fell for it, we are told, for two reasons – she really needed the money and she was in an unusual environment (i.e.
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