In a Land of Cynics and Saps, the Skeptic Is King
Our cognitive bias’ are many, but one among them is that sometimes irrational fear of becoming a sucker.
This article at NYT examines an interesting study of that bias/fear.
MANY of us have faced this situation at some point: a stranger approaches and tells us that he is visiting the city and lost all his money and identification, or it was stolen. He just needs $20 more to buy a bus ticket/fix his car/get a motel room.
The stranger looks anxious. It seems as if the story may be true. But if we hand over the $20, are we being played for a sucker? On the other hand, if I were in a similar situation, wouldn’t I want someone to give a helping hand? Am I being too cynical?
In my experience these situations are usually scams. I once saw the same person telling the same story on the same street corner two weeks after I first heard it. So either he was pulling a fast one or he was a terribly unlucky soul.
But the pull between cynicism and gullibility is constant. Do we trust people too little? Too much? There’s evidence on both sides. According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, public trust in the federal government is at one of its lowest levels in half a century.
In the economy when it comes to trust we only have to fear fear itself… most of the time - should we let our fears and wingnut ranters keep us in the doldrums?