Optimistic People More Likely to Get Scammed, Study Says
According to new research, optimists are more likely to fall victim to scams. The research, which was co-authored by the University of Plymouth, also found those who are less educated are more likely to be susceptible.
The study was led by Scripps College, and consisted of two experiments conducted on 500 participants. The experiments were based on 25 real scam solicitations from around the Los Angeles area, and were essentially scam simulations that offered participants a chance to win a large sum of money. The second experiment had an additional requirement: Participants had to pay a small activation fee in order to be eligible for the promised reward.
To the researchers’ surprise, almost half of the study’s subjects showed an interest in responding to the solicitation. The subsequent findings seem somewhat intuitive: people whose attraction to the potential reward outweighed their estimation of the potential risk were more likely to respond to the solicitation. The logical conclusion this implies is more surprising — that people who view the glass as “half full” are most susceptible to scams.
“On the one hand, consumers are for the most part able to recognize potential scams. But the lure of the prize is largely driving individuals’ behaviours,” says Yaniv Hanoch, a professor of Decision Science at the University of Plymouth. “The sentiment seems to be, ‘after all, what harm can be done by just responding to a letter?”
The researchers found this optimistic outlook to be the most important factor in determining whether a participant would respond to a scam. But age and education level also played a part: if a participant was older or highly educated, they would be less likely to respond.
Notably, people were not hugely deterred by the addition of the activation fee. Nearly a quarter of all subjects were still interested. “Similar to our first experiment, risk and benefits assessments remained the highest predictors of intention to respond,” said Stacey Wood, a professor at Scripps College and the study’s lead author.
The study hopes to highlight the need to protect people from mass marketing scams, which are some of the world’s most fast-growing crimes. Wood suggested prevention could come about through education. “As one example, scam-avoiding materials may be incorporated into existing school eSafety programs,” Wood said.
But perhaps all of us just admitting the glass is half empty will do the trick.