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Commentary: Enabling themselves to be conned? Why superstitious victims tumble prey to frauds


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SINGAPORE: Last 7 days, a fortune teller and her spouse received jail sentences for jogging a fraud advertising talismans said to be imbued with “unique powers” that could repair issues their victims experienced.

Nine victims ended up cheated out of a whole of extra than S$800,000.

This is the most up-to-date in a lengthy line of these types of frauds and is not likely to be the last. So why do these types of superstitious beliefs persist, delivering easy pickings for scammers to exploit? How are these types of purchasers so gullible and why do they take part willingly in these types of offers? Could there be rational grounds for their beliefs?

And the deeper, hard question that some visitors have requested – if these victims experienced been gullible adequate to feel what they ended up instructed, did they are entitled to what was coming to them?

Feeling IN Demand

Study has revealed that two primary factors are at engage in when folks give in to superstitious beliefs that scammers capitalise on.

The initial stems from a wide human desire to have management of developments and bordering gatherings. This applies even in incidences that are widely known to be outside of human management or work – for instance, whether or not or when it will rain.

Because obtaining management over situations can indicate that 1 can change or respond to them, folks locate larger convenience when they “feel” that they are in demand of a condition or on best of points.

So relatively than passively awaiting whatsoever fate decides, quite a few people undertake some type of bodily action or engage in rituals – even though these would not objectively change their condition – just to develop a sense of management.

For people who buy talismans, executing so tends to make them come to feel they have improved management over gatherings all over them, even though a talisman does nothing at all objectively to change the probability that a little something will or will not occur.

This want for management is even more robust among folks who facial area perhaps big losses and dangers. For illustration, some businessmen – with their track record and funds at stake – are known to comply with specific superstitions, even when they know these have no effects on the accomplishment of their business dealings.

Numerous harbour a sense that it is improved to be “safe”, and not “take chances” when the stakes are substantial.

An trader retains onto prayer beads as he watches a board exhibiting stock selling prices at a brokerage place of work in Beijing.  (File photograph: REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon)

Making Perception OF Situations

A next reason why folks tumble prey to these types of frauds arises from a organic human tendency to want to infer bring about or assign blame for gatherings, a tendency known as causal inference.

This sort of a manner of reasoning, which permits an individual to attract out causal associations in gatherings and infer associations among them, allows the individual to make sense of gatherings.

So when a individual wears what they feel to be a lucky talisman and a little something very good happens, causal inference may possibly direct the wearer to presume that it is the talisman that is creating very good fortune.

Scammers capitalise on these tendencies by peddling phony stories of how a talisman for sale experienced prevented negative situations from befalling earlier entrepreneurs. This sort of stories gas a opportunity buyer’s belief in a talisman’s effectiveness in producing very good luck, and will increase their willingness to pay out for 1. 

Feeling Protected

There may possibly also be a 3rd reason why folks tumble prey to frauds involving “lucky talismans”. In a modern examine at NUS Business University, my co-scientists and I looked into influences at the rear of lengthy-held superstitions and how folks come to feel just after partaking in rituals that supposedly ward off negative luck.

In a series of experiments, we observed that folks engage in avoidant actions – these types of as knocking or tapping on wooden – to lessen their personal fears or fears about a jinxed function.

We also observed that the symbolic that means of the action involved lowers the individual’s perception of the hazard posed by the function or the perceived chance of a negative result.

Regardless of living in 1 of the world’s most sophisticated countries, quite a few Koreans still consult Shamans for divination or individual suggestions. (Image: AFP)

Similarly, shielding actions – these types of as sporting a talisman – can generate a sense of defense, even though that feeling has no rational basis.

So together with a desire to be in management and to make sense of why unexplained points occur, it look this convenience that arrives with feeling guarded also describes why people are inclined to feel in the power of talismans and why they are prone to frauds by individuals who check out to offer these talismans to them.

DO THEY Are worthy of TO BE CONNED?

In a way, victims of these types of frauds are proficiently trading funds away for a sense of company, comprehension and defense over a condition. Some might argue that the offer is as a result reasonable, but the actuality continues to be that these are frauds that should really be punished, because the sale is primarily based on a phony premise that victims ended up deliberately manipulated into believing.

Normally, scammers direct their sufferer into believing that the talisman on hand is only out there for a limited time, inducing worry and stress, and having gain of the belief the sufferer has placed in them. Pressured and worried that they might shed out, the victim’s capacity to occur to a sound judgment may possibly be impaired.


So what can be said for individuals who may possibly tumble sufferer to these types of frauds, and what hope do they have?

Science, expertise and rational examination are solid antidotes to unsupported beliefs and superstitions.

To be guaranteed, superstitious beliefs are weaker right now in contrast to many years ago, as people’s scientific expertise about how points get the job done has sophisticated. For illustration, not like hundreds of yrs ago, most folks right now no for a longer period feel in praying for rain.

That said, there will generally be incidents and incidents, and a tendency for some to attribute them to negative luck. Certainly, Singapore is rated as 1 of the most hugely educated societies in the entire world, yet superstitions remain commonplace in quite a few spots of everyday life.

The desire to have a sense of management and the organic tendency to make everyday inferences are portion of deeply engrained human psychology and are possible to assure that superstitions remain portion of quite a few people’s everyday life.

Even though a healthier dose of scepticism can assist opportunity victims offer with foreseeable future fraud makes an attempt, a extra practical resolution is for folks not to rush into big purchases but request for extra time to imagine over the sale. Where sellers check out to exert strain to push their wares, these signs should really also provide as vital purple flags for individuals who keep superstitious beliefs.

Zhang Yan is associate professor of internet marketing at the Nationwide College of Singapore’s Business University. 

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