Friday, 8 August 2008

How To Check If You Are Gullible

I was reading an interesting chapter in Richard Perloff's recent book The Dynamics of Persuasion that talked about which types of people are the most gullible. Naturally I read the chapter expecting to confirm that they'd be nothing like me and I was in for a shock!

Coincidentally Saboma posted this fascinating link to a site that 'outs' Scammers that stalk dating sites. Yet another example of synchronicity!

Now initially you might think that dating sites are crammed full of potentially gullible people. Perhaps you are thinking that many dating site members are vulnerable, desperate, or 'on the bounce' and so they are easy prey for a Scammer. In reality, given the popularity of dating sites the vast majority of people who join them are 'normal' just like you and me, and that's the key point!

If what Perloff says is true then think again about which people you reckon are the most gullible. If you look at any Normal Population Distribution The 'big middle' of 68.2% of a population is bounded by two sets of smaller populations. According to Perloff its is the 'big middle', typical average Joes like you and me that are the most susceptible to gullibility! Ouch!

The two 'tails' of the distribution in the case of gullibility relate to two other types of person.

At one end of the distribution curve sit people who are in a crisis of some sort, they are emotionally distracted and consumed by their problems. These people are resistant to Scammers because they are so totally absorbed with the details of their situation that they don't pay attention to anything else, and this includes the deceptive and manipulative tactics of people who wish to take advantage of them.

At the other end sit people who are highly Dogmatic These people simply believe that their way of seeing things is right and everybody else's view is wrong. Hardly fertile territory for a Scammer who hopes that you will believe everything they have to say.

So, if Scammers are having a field day on dating sites, then its because the vast majority of dating site members are normal not because they are uniquely stupid, normal people that are open minded, willing to try something new, generous about other people's points of view, polite and not too intrusive, and give people the benefit of the doubt.

To avoid being Scammed in the Dating Site situation we need to 'park' our 'normal' tendencies, we need to ask direct and probing questions and make sure we get objective evidence for claims. The Scammers trade on the fact that societal conventions mean we don't normally do this for fear of creating offence. Well, if the person you are interested in is worth their salt, they won't be offended.


  1. "Computer dating is fine, if you’re a computer."
    *Rita Mae Brown

    ^5, RR!