Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Cognitive Bias: "first kiss" and "last supper"

Kiss You
Do you remember your first kiss? How about
fourth? Seventh?
Kiss You (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The human mind has a lot of cognitive bias, and two of them involved "first kiss" and "last supper", but not in the literal sense.

Human memory is frail, because we don't actually record everything with equal intensity. Instead, we remember the first things, and the most recent things more clearly than anything in the middle.

Do you remember your first kiss? How about fourth or fifth?

Do you remember what you ate last night? How about six days ago at dinner?

In each case, you probably remember the first, the last, but almost nothing in the middle.

A scammer can take advantage of that.

A scammer can give you a great initial experience (similar to foot-in-door and low-ball techniques), so you remember the "first" experience. The subsequent encounters are far more mundane, and may indeed be quite bad, but you don't really remember that. The old cliche "there is no second chance to make a first impression" is true... even for a scam. So they dress up the scam in gold filigree, leave out all the inconvenient truth (like it's prosecuted in a dozen countries around the world) and convince it's PERFECTLY SAFE TO JOIN! Well, now that you're in the well, it's hard to climb back out.

A convention / seminar, with good production values, is a great way to take advantage of the "first kiss" bias, as the scammer can make the initial exposure the scam a positively overwhelmingly positive one, esp. when there are prizes and such to giveaway, to induce people to sign up and commit. Indeed, many scams try to use the location and performers of the event to somehow insinuate that it adds to their legitimacy.

SpeakAsia ponzi in India is infamous to have booked entire trains taking people to a business fair in Goa, where their own marketing manager stated on stage that many major companies are working with them. Their own CEO later apologized at a press conference for the remark, claiming that the marketing manager was misinformed: the companies named by the marketing manager had NOT contracted SpeakAsia to do any surveys. But how many people have already joined that day? And how many people were impressed by the location, the cost to charter a train, and the event? Dozens / hundreds of people told themselves: could a scam have done this? And they convinced themselves: "probably not".

TVI Express, a convicted scam in Australia and various other countries, are known to have conducted large events in Indonesia and Philippines where they hired dancers, local celebrities, and such for performances, even a "fashion show" starring cheap tote bags, and congratulated themselves on recruiting thousands of people, and put the "leaders" (top recruiters) on stage to receive awards (where they want to sign up even MORE people, of course). Dozens / hundreds of people told themselves: could a scam have done this? And they convinced themselves: "probably not".

Once you are in, the "last supper" cognitive bias takes over. You  remember the "last time" you had contact much more clearly, but not the meetings prior to that. So all they need to do is PROMISE CHANGE (but not deliver) at their meeting, website, seminar, webinar, conference call, or whatever, and give you a bunch of promises that sounds good and implies answers to your questions without actually answering them, and you'll walk away thinking that things will get better.

It's a lot like a man who mistreats his wife consistently, then tries to make up for it by a candle-light dinner with roses and chocolate, and the wife remembers that great romantic dinner much better than the various mistreatment before the dinner.

Both are cases of "selective recall", and can be exploited by scammers. Look past the veil and appearances.
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  1. The points on which you have focused upon were just too perfect and this is a reality whatever you have highlighted!

  2. Thanks. Have to note though that the URL in your name's broken. I think you may have misspelled it. ;)