Entertainment, Psychology

Book Review: The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova

We recently posted about the docuseries Stolen Youth: Inside the Cult at Sarah Lawrence, which analyzes how a man named Larry Ray used his daughter’s college friends to essentially start a cult.

Con artists come in many different forms. Some are like Ray and start a cult. Others choose more simple tactics and scam people on the streets of big cities by convincing them to play a game.

The Confidence Game analyzes the con artist, their personality traits and why people fall for it. Konnikova tells us that everyone is capable of falling for a scam, just not the same scam.

Konnikova is a New York Times bestselling author and holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University in New York.

Konnikova is able to use her psychology background to understand why certain con artists are so successful and how they’re able to get what they want. She uses a collection of stories about con artists and ties them all together by showing the reader what they have in common.

But why do people fall for these schemes? Well, it’s easy to read or hear about a story and think, I’m way too smart to fall for that. But that doesn’t mean you never fell for anything or won’t fall for something in the future. Konnikova explains that overall, people are generally trusting and want to help others. This is great for humanity but can sometimes lead to a bad outcome.

People want to trust others and when they made up their minds about a situation or a person, it can be hard to shift that perspective, even when they have a gut feeling that something isn’t right.

Reading The Confidence Game reminded us of the Netflix documentary The Tinder Swindler, where a man who went by the name Simon Leviev scammed young women on Tinder by becoming their dream guy. Eventually, he would say he was in danger and ask them for money.

He appealed to their emotions and their desire to help someone they care about. It doesn’t make them stupid, it makes them human. The Confidence Game analyzes what type of people can pull off these scams and why people believe the con artists.

What We Liked

Konnikova hooked us from the start. We’ve been interested in con artists, scams and cults recently and the psychology behind it. We found the book to be hard to put down and it became a valuable learning experience that had us think about more common everyday scams.

Konnikova clearly did her research and found studies that are more recent to ones that happened in the 19th century. It shows that while technology changes, the mindset of the con artist doesn’t.

Another aspect we liked was that Konnikova didn’t just tell stories from the past, she analyzes them in great detail and points out exactly why the person was scammed.

Additionally, she talks about how people are too embarrassed to admit that they were scammed. Or in some situations, even when they learn the truth, they won’t believe it was a scam because they still trust the con artist.

It’s scary to realize how easily people can con others. However, Konnikova provides some guidance on how to avoid these situations.

Lastly, we enjoyed reading about the cult section, where Konnikova met with people who try to infiltrate cults in order to encourage people to escape. Even these people under cover sometimes find it hard not be sucked in by cult leaders with charismatic personalities.

What We Didn’t Like

There wasn’t much we didn’t like about The Confidence Game. The only aspect we can say that we wish we could change was that the last few chapters dragged a bit. They were still written well, but it felt overly detailed. We found ourselves distracted when trying to read certain sections.

Overall Thoughts

The Confidence Game is perfect for anyone who is interested in true crime and wants to understand the psychology behind scams. We highly recommend the book and we already plan on reading and reviewing Konnikova’s other psychology books.

Have you ever known someone who fell for a scam? Let us know about it in the comments. We’re curious to learn more about this subject.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

17 thoughts on “Book Review: The Confidence Game by Maria Konnikova”

  1. This seems a very interesting book. If I was ever granted a wish from a genie or a fairy godmother, then I will wish for the power to read people’s mind. We all have some kind of insecurity about something or someone. Con artists seem to understand through observations of habits, both physical and emotional, to take advantage of people. I will definitely buy this book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I haven’t heard of this book or the author before. It sounds like an interesting read. I like true crime but I haven’t read a book on that theme before. Thank you for sharing.

    Lauren – bournemouthgirl

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oo, I am a huge lover of true crime and am always interested in heists and scams, especially after the shows we’ve seen come out over the past couple years. Thanks for sharing this book! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We read this book months ago, and we really enjoyed it. From a true crime perspective, it fascinated us. We primarily enjoyed the psychology perspectives, as it reinforced so many concepts that we learned and studied in other books we have read like Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Thank you for sharing this great review!

    Liked by 1 person

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