Friday, September 2, 2016

Scam Psychology: How Threshold of Collective Behavior Affects Victim's Mindset

Readers of this blog have remarked that they are very surprised at how a victim will refuse to acknowledge s/he is a victim, despite very clear evidence that are indisputable, repeatedly demonstrated, even by the leader of the scheme. The victim simply ignores any evidence that is "negative" and accepts any evidence that is "positive". It is... completely irrational.

Yet irrational behavior is so prevalent, even when the behavior is CLEARLY demonstrated to be irrational. The perfect example? Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain.

Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game
Wilt Chamberlain's 100-point game
(Photo credit: 
Wilt Chamberlain, despite his legendary status, was a HORRIBLE free throw shooter. For his entire career... his free throw shooting percentage is... 51%. However, this guy once scored 100 points in an NBA game... BY HIMSELF!!!!!!  And in this game, he made 28/32 free throws... with UNDERHANDED throw! He made the first nine free throw shots! He tried doing this underhanded throw for a while and improved to 70+% accuracy rather than 50% of his normal overhand throw. So you'd think he'd keep doing it, right? WRONG! He went back to being a BAD shooter, because... Wilt Chamberlain does NOT want to throw underhanded. He "felt silly, like a sissy."

The choice to switch back to the 50% overhand free throw is an IRRATIONAL decision.  How can one of the greatest NBA players choose to play badly... just because... he felt bad even though the results speak for itself? Even today, the underhand throw is known as a "granny shot", and there are almost NO professional or semi-pro basketball players using it (only two in NBA, IIRC).

This sort of irrational behavior is very much in evidence when it comes to scam victim's mindset. Scam victims have been known to organize rallys "in support" of their ponzi scheme, interfere in government probes and sometimes, even sue the government in attempts to "clear the name" of the scheme they were involved in.

Sociologists believe this may have something to do with "threshold of collective/group behavior", where people will choose to follow a group, despite the group is NOT something they believe in. Like Wilt Chamberlain who chose to follow other players (in order not to feel sissy) instead of improve his scoring, scam victims will follow their group until the bitter end despite they know this can only turn out badly.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Scam Tactic: "Don't knock it until you try it" slogan is very bad advice

One of the most common arguments for income schemes is "don't knock it until you try it", i.e. "it paid me so it works". This is actually a VERY flawed argument. Recently I came across the Skeptoid episode: don't try it until you knock it. While that's about general skepticism, it works very well for financial scam debunking as well, as it destroys all the variations of the bad argument.

Don't Knock It Until You Try It?  Nah. 

Personal experience is "sample size of one". It is noise. It subject to sunk cost fallacy, subjective validation, self-superiority bias, confirmation bias, and all the other cognitive biases. Mankind invented science and scientific process to counteract such biases.  Personal observation is subjective, and therefore biased information. Advocating one to "try it" simply proves nothing.

Yet MLMers love to fly this particular argument. They value personal experience over all others, the exactly opposite of scientific process trying to filter out bad data. It is basically fully faith-based.

I was skeptical until I tried it

A true skeptic would know NOT to try it due to all the reason discussed above. The proper way to evaluate something is through scientific and statistical process from a large sample set, not through a single subjective personal experience.

Falling for a dare / lure to "try it" just makes you gullible, not skeptical. Yet MLMers selling nutritional supplements or unproven "treatments" love to fly this particular argument.  (also see "What's the harm" below)

I know it works, because it worked for me

So somehow, you're God, and what you experienced is the universal truth for everybody, eh? It's just your subjective experience, based on your circumstances at the time, and based on all your PRIOR memory and experiences. If any one else had different life history, experienced the same thing at a different time, under different circumstances, or any combination of such, the experience will be different.

What you experienced is only good for yourself. It is not a data point. It is anecdote.