Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Makes A Mark Gullible?

If N. Nicholas Taleb is looking for confirmatory
evidence for some of his views on human psychology,
he would be interested in this little bit from David Maurer's
classic study, The Big Con,  a technical term meaning
a con in which the sucker, i.e. you or me in the right
circumstances perhaps, not only gets taken for the money
which he has readily available, but he also gets sent home
to raise some more.

Maurer talks about what makes a person a good mark,
ruling out stupidity.  It usually takes intelligence to
follow the con man's scheme.  Here is Maurer's
description of the ideal mark:

Most marks come from the upper strata of society, 
which in America, means that they have made,
married or inherited money.  Because of this, they
acquire status which in time they come to attribute
to some inherent superiority, especially as regards
matters of sound judgment in finance and investment.
Friends and associates... help to maintain this illusion
of superiority.  Eventually the mark.... forgets the 
part which luck and chicanery have played in his 
financial rise: he accepts his mantle of respectability
without question; he naively attributes his success to 
sound business judgment.

-                                            - The Big Con,
-                                              Chapter 4, p.102
-                                              Anchor Books edition

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