psychology | August 07, 2019

New Yorker Writer Maria Konnikova Dives into the Psychology of the Con for NPR

In her New York Times bestselling book The Confidence Game, Maria Konnikova investigates the mind, methods, and motives of con artists. A newfound expert on the topic, Konnikova analyses real-live cons in the latest episode of NPR’s Rough Translation. 

When she began writing The Confidence Game, New Yorker writer Maria Konnikova noticed that there was a common thread in the way stories about con artists were told. In these narratives, the con artist was often elevated to the status of hero, a champion of crime, while the victim became “the mark”: an object of pity, bordering on contempt.


Throughout the course of her research, Konnikova realized that there is a negative effect to romanticizing con artists, just as there is a negative effect to believing we’ll never be conned. Both leave us vulnerable. “One of the things you realize when you study con artists is that we’re conning ourselves all the time, about who we are, about our stories, and con artists just pick up on that,” Konnikova explains. “They figure out how we’re conning ourselves. That’s one of the reasons we’re so susceptible.” In her talks, Konnikova translates the lessons of the con into actionable insights for how to better anticipate the needs of clients, employees, and core audiences.


In this episode of Rough Translation, Konnikovan analyzes real-life examples of cons submitted by listeners. You can listen to the full episode here.


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