Brain Pickings

Illusionist Derren Brown on the Psychology of Gullibility


Why trust is the antidote to cynicism and how our false mental patterns serve us.

Carl Sagan once made an eloquent case for balancing skepticism and openness as to avoid gullibility — but what, exactly, makes one gullible? In this short video from Open University — who gave us those wonderful 60-second animations of famous thought experiments and religious theoriesNigel Warburton of Philosophy Bites fame talks to English illusionist and mentalist Derren Brown about the psychology of gullibility.

Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s the more trusting people that actually emerge as less gullible. They obviously get fooled, as we all do… but they tend to be very good at learning from those experiences where they have been duped, they tend not to generalize it over everybody and then to start being cynical about everything, which then makes them more effective socially.

For more on the art and science of beguiling, see On Deception, the fantastic anthology of Harry Houdini’s writings, recently republished with a foreword by Brown himself.

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