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06.03.13

A truly shocking psychology experiment
A truly shocking psychology experiment

There are lots of reasons people fall for scams (or as we magicians call them, tricks!). One of the really interesting theories is 'social compliance'. A psychologist called Stanley Milgram did some famous and really interesting experiments in this area. Social influence is the effect other people's behaviour or even mere presence has on us, and when we're presented with someone acting in a vaguely authoritative way (even if that just amounts to wearing a white coat) studies show we behave as though they're the boss. Hustlers and scammers know all about this. People will hand over credit cards to people who look like staff. Those 'phishing' emails you get appearing to be from the bank exploit the same tendency. This is why the most audacious crimes are often the most effective. The Milgram experiments were replicated (with some changes to make them a little more ethical) in 2009. Have a look at the way people reacted, it's fascinating: