You Actually Can Con a Conman. Here's How

Image Credit: MangoStar_Studio/iStock/GettyImages

We can't resist a smooth talker, at least a fictional one. We love our Danny Oceans and Harold Hills and Anna Delveys; we admire their ability (at least on a certain level) to see through everyone else's nonsense and get what they want. There's just one problem with real-life BS — too many spreaders are high on their own supply.

Psychologists at Canada's University of Waterloo have just released a study on the fine art of "information designed to impress, persuade, or otherwise mislead people that is often constructed without concern for the truth" — in other words, bullshit. Whether it's by spinning tale tales or selectively avoiding certain facts, people who excel at this kind of communication seem able to talk their way through just about anything. What the Waterloo psychologists found, however, is that it's harder for them to spot another BSer, not easier.

"We found that the more frequently someone engages in persuasive bullshitting, the more likely they are to be duped by various types of misleading information regardless of their cognitive ability, engagement in reflective thinking, or metacognitive skills," said lead author Shane Littrell.

So if you're feeling mad about that one coworker who seems to get away with so much (and even be rewarded for it), take a moment to appreciate that they're also more likely to fall for scams, pseudoscience, and made-up headlines. Our brains make us do all kinds of weird things in the moment, but the more we're aware of them, the more we're actually in control.