Sunday, June 21, 2009

Faith of Our Fathers

Today, I came on an article at The Sideshow about scams that gives some reasons for believing in something that defies reality. I see what we expect of our families having something of that appeal, that we need something besides the realities we have to deal with badly enough to project onto our family that supernatural character that we know isn't there, so we invent it.

The findings of a study of scams turned up characteristics of people who fall for them. We may all see things because we wish they were there, but some things stand out in those who put more into fantasies than others do.

From the executive summary, here's some stuff you may know:

Appeals to trust and authority: people tend to obey authorities so scammers use, and victims fall for, cues that make the offer look like a legitimate one being made by a reliable official institution or established reputable business.

Visceral triggers: scams exploit basic human desires and needs -- such as greed, fear, avoidance of physical pain, or the desire to be liked -- in order to provoke intuitive reactions and reduce the motivation of people to process the content of the scam message deeply. For example, scammers use triggers that make potential victims focus on the huge prizes or benefits on offer.

Scarcity cues. Scams are often personalised to create the impression that the offer is unique to the recipient. They also emphasise the urgency of a response to reduce the potential victim's motivation to process the scam content objectively.

Induction of behavioural commitment. Scammers ask their potential victims to make small steps of compliance to draw them in, and thereby cause victims to feel committed to continue sending money.

The disproportionate relation between the size of the alleged reward and the cost of trying to obtain it. Scam victims are led to focus on the alleged big prize or reward in comparison to the relatively small amount of money they have to send in order to obtain their windfall; a phenomenon called 'phantom fixation'. The high value reward (often life-changing, medically, financially, emotionally or physically) that scam victims thought they could get by responding, makes the money to be paid look rather small by comparison.

Lack of emotional control. Compared to non-victims, scam victims report being less able to regulate and resist emotions associated with scam offers. They seem to be unduly open to persuasion, or perhaps unduly undiscriminating about who they allow to persuade them. This creates an extra vulnerability in those who are socially isolated, because social networks often induce us to regulate our emotions when we otherwise might not.(Emphasis added.)

While most of us are reality based in our credulousness, it's not hard to envision investing heavily in some one we believe in, as Madoff's investors did. He was a person associated with very high position, who preyed on members of his own community. Would all of us weigh the words of some one close to us heavily, rather than simply assuming he'd never betray some one who was part of his world?

I believe all of us are betrayed at one time or another, if only by accepting our parents' word for it that there really is a Santa Claus, or a God. We would rather not lose the beauty of that concept. We all believe in our own basic goodness, but we can all find out, with shock, that we've been rotten in some way, if only by not loving when love is expected of us. I never suffered from post partum depression, but can sympathize.

There are things you don't accept in those you basically love. What to do about it? If you really loved me, you'd put in the comments what a great post this is? No. So you choose, for the most part, to overlook it. I confess, in High School I voted for Richard Nixon in a mock election. I believed that completely in the opinions I heard at home.

We can all be played.

But Happy Father's Day anyway. And I bet you put a sunny disposition on, whatever you may be feeling. Good on you.

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Blogger Jake - but not the one said...

I tried to be sunny, Ruth. I am not sure I pulled it off.


8:31 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Nice try, anyway. And at another blog where I post, Santa Claus replied to this, that he is to be believed in. So I asked where the pony is?

9:22 AM  

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