Wired: Beware of sob stories “ they make suckers of us all

Beware of sob stories — they make suckers of us all. How stories require “a willing construction of disbelief,” meaning that “we are primed to believe them and have to make a concerted, conscious effort to do otherwise.”

We will only verify what we hear if we are “motivated and able” to do so. What a well-told story does is circumvent the second stage of what Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert says is our default way of interpreting reality: first, we accept everything as true and only then do we reflect, question and, if necessary, correct our initial perception. If we are presented with a logical argument, we go through that precise process. If, however, we are faced with an emotional story, we get stuck at point one. We assume its truth. We are moved by it. We act on it. We don’t verify or question it. And in that presumption of faith lies narrative’s great strength — and the con artist’s great power.


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