The Big Idea behind this book is that there are “cons” and there are “suckers”—and that most of us (all of us, according to Konnikova) have the capacity to be duped. Anyone who has ever had a love interest or friend that turned out to be someone/something different than originally imagined knows this.
The book outlines—through real-life examples—how true cons exploit our trust. More interesting to me was how smart people get bamboozled by these savvy swindlers. There’s some real personal insight to be gained from reading this book, like:
“It goes by many names. The better-than-average-effect. Illusory superiority…Whatever you call it, it means the same thing: we believe we are singular… we hold an unwavering commitment to the notion that we are special—and not just special, but more special than most anyone else.” (Her point? Because of this, we get fooled.)
“Humans have a strong bias toward misperceiving the world. We don’t just think ourselves exceptional. We predict our lives will always go well… we are programmed, in a sense, to think too positively about how things will turn out—even the things we have no control over. It’s a tendency known as the positivity bias or optimistic bias. Even pessimists experience it.”
Yes, by reading this book you’ll learn how Bernie Madoff (and other lesser crooks) do what they do. But you’ll also gain some valuable insight into broader human psychology and behavior that can be applied back to your own life. Priceless.