Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It

Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It

Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It

Annals of Gullibility: Why We Get Duped and How to Avoid It

Synopsis

The first book to provide a comprehensive look at the problem of gullibility, this groundbreaking work covers how and why we are fooled in areas that range from religion, politics, science, and medicine, to personal finance and relationships. First laying the groundwork by showing gullibility at play in the writings of historic authors we all know, developmental psychologist Stephen Greenspan follows with chapters that describe social duping across the gamut of human conduct. From people who pour bucks into investment scams, to those who follow the "faith" of scientologists, believe in fortunetellers, or champion unfounded "medicine" akin to snake oil, we all know someone who has been duped. A lot of us have been duped ourselves, out of naive trust. It's not a matter of low intelligence that moves us to, without evidence, believe the words of politicians, salesmen, academics, lawyers, military figures, or cult leaders, among others. Greenspan shows us the four broad reasons we become drawn into gullible behavior, and he presents ways people can become less gullible.

Excerpt

Donald S. Connery

Donald S. Connery, an author and former foreign correspondent for Time and Life magazines, is a long-time investigator of miscarriages of justice. His book Guilty Until Proven Innocent described the conviction and rescue of a teenager, Peter Reilly, who was led by police to falsely believe he had killed his mother, whereas Convicting the Innocent told of a mentally disabled man, Richard Lapointe, still wrongly imprisoned for murder, who agreed with police that he must have committed the crime he couldn’t remember. An advisor to Northwestern Law School’s Center on Wrongful Conviction, Connery has been a leading advocate for mandatory recording of all interrogations.

Like a bunko artist, snake-oil salesman, or cult leader, I once gulled the gullible.

It was so easy. Perhaps because we are all too much inclined to believe what we read. Perhaps because World War Two was over and my fellow soldiers, eager to return to civilian life, were giddy and guileless as they headed home from the Pacific.

I was editor of the troopship newspaper. We were sailing from Tokyo to San Francisco. One day I reported that we would soon pass over the international dateline. Those troops wishing to see the fabled dateline in all its glory—a great, glowing, phosphorescent belt on the ocean bottom—should assemble at the stern at precisely 3 A.M. and stare into the sea.

The gathering of the gullible in the salty darkness was far greater than I anticipated. Hundreds of eyes searched the depths in vain. As disappointment turned to anger, I became The Man Most Likely to Be Thrown Overboard.

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