The Psychology Behind Scamming

by Jackie Edwards

From winning the lottery and PPI refunds to identity theft and online marriage proposals, we’re all potential targets for fraudsters. Globally, scammers conned unsuspecting victims out of $12.7 billion in 2013 — and that was just with 419 advance fee fraud scams. Scam victims typically lose out financially — often without reimbursement — and suffer significant emotional trauma, making them less likely to come forward due to embarrassment. While scams have become more complex and harder to detect in the modern age, the foundational influence techniques scammers use on their victims remain the same. Become aware of how scams exploit emotions and human nature, and you’re less likely to fall for these psychological techniques.

Exploitation of social norms

From birth, we’re conditioned to have unwavering respect for authority figures. Scammers take advantage of this social norm and therefore often pose as bank employees, government officials, or qualified professionals who appear trustworthy. In a similar vein, scammers try to exploit man’s inherent good nature. You may find it hard to say “no” to a charity asking for donations. Or you may be compelled to send money to help pay for emergency medical or travel expenses — which often plays out in online dating scams.

Scarcity-based incentives

Most of us have fallen prey to tempting “limited-time only” sales when shopping. Retailers and scammers alike rely on scarcity-based incentives: offers that expire soon, offers that are one-time only, or deals that will fall through if you don’t act RIGHT NOW! They conjure a sense of urgency in order to get you to take immediate action. The fear of missing out is primal and you’re more likely to forgo rationality and self-control in the face of it. Scammers want you acting now instead of taking time to asses the situation and likely realizing things don’t add up.

Eliciting of emotion

People who lack control over their emotions are more likely to be persuaded by scammers, a report by the UK Office of Fair Trading reveals. Sometimes these will be positive emotions like the excitement of winning money or online relationships. Alternatively, negative feelings like fear and panic are often elicited via supposed fraudulent bank activity. It’s natural to want to alleviate strong, unpleasant emotions as soon as possible. People will therefore act out of fear and desperation — rather than reason — and respond to the scam in order to feel better in the short run.

So, how do you know who to trust? Never give out personal information or money to anybody — especially on first contact. Delete emails from people you don’t know. Do your own research to verify something — but don’t call numbers or click links you’ve been given. Give yourself time to carefully think about the situation. Does it elicit strong emotions urging you to act? If in doubt, always go with your gut. Finally, if you find yourself the target of a scam, report it and let others know, so they can avoid falling prey to the same or similar scam in the future.

Evolution of Ergonomics: From Early Man to Modern Human

by Jackie Edwards

The word ergonomics was first used in 1857 in a philosophical narrative by Polish scientist Prof. Wojciech Jastrzebowski. The term derives its name from two Greek words – Ergon, which means ‘work’ and Nomos, which translates to ‘natural law,’ literally translating into ‘how to work according to nature.’ So, ergonomics is a scientific discipline involved in the design and creation of safe and comfortable workspaces so as to best utilize a person’s abilities and boost productivity.

For example, viewing cute pictures to increase workplace productivity is also an important discovery in the field of ergonomics which increases work efficiency by enhancing the mood of workers. In layman language, ergonomics refers to designing products, environments, and systems where people are involved so as to minimize risks of harms or injuries and also, related mental or emotional stress. Interestingly, this principle has been in existence for a long time even though the term itself may have just been coined in recent history.

Where it all began

Ergonomics has been in the very cradle of human evolution, ever since early man began making tools from bones and pebbles to make tasks easier. Archaeological findings have revealed sophisticated ergonomic devices, tools, and equipment from ancient Egyptian dynasties and 5th Century BCE Greece. Several centuries later, we still use axes, plows, hammers and several such tools only in their more improvised and sophisticated designs to fit into our advanced living environment. However, it was not until the 16th century that ergonomics began to be understood and studied. It all started with Bernardino Ramazinni’s medical journal ‘De Morbis Artificum (Diseases of Workers)’ which brought to light the various injuries incurred by his patients, resulting from unfavorable conditions in their occupations and workspaces.

Industrial Revolution

During the historical Industrial Revolution of 19th century, ergonomics was at the pinnacle of attention, being studied like never before. Spinning Jennies and rolling mills were invented to speed up work. Frederick W. Taylor pioneered the process of ergonomics by evaluating the best and easier ways of accomplishing a task and eventually succeeded in improving worker productivity and wages in a shoveling job. Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, on the other hand, standardized materials, work processes and tools and began time motion analysis to make workflow efficient and less tiring.

World War II

With World War II, ergonomics reached a newer height, prompting research in man and machine interaction. This began to prominently reveal itself especially in the design of military systems like naval ships, aircraft and weaponry. The complex devices from radar to aircraft that were manufactured for the war began to demand a better grip of ergonomics without which there was a continuous risk of loss of personnel or equipment. In 1943, a U.S Army lieutenant, Alphonse Chapanis brought to light how so-called “pilot errors” could be greatly reduced. That is when logical and easier to understand control buttons were born in the cockpits of aircraft.

Ergonomics today

Work or ergonomic-related musculoskeletal injuries contributed to a third of day-offs from workplaces as per data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013. And, most of these were reported from sectors like agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation and warehousing, healthcare and entertainment/recreation. These injuries have not only sparked concern but with it, have also spiked renewed interest in the subject of ‘ergonomics’ to inspire futuristic designs for new age tools tailored to modern technological advances and lifestyle of humans.

Ergonomics may be a relatively new term and newer field of study. However, it has been a part of our life since the very moment of Stone Age. Today, Ergonomics is studied in-depth with specializations in cognitive, organizational and physical sciences.

In A Modern World Can We Learn From Cave Paintings?


The ‘dumb Neanderthal myth’ is continually debunked. With the discovery of prehistoric art galleries on rocks worldwide we see how our extinct human cousins appreciated beauty and life. Advancement in understanding Palaeolithic Europeans and their accomplishments and communications – especially as seen through cave paintings – has opened our eyes to a people that were creative and adventurous. Is there anything that we can learn in our modern lives based on an understanding of cave painting? In particular, what can cave paintings teach us about communication and community?

Painting a picture of community

What message about community do some of the oldest cave paintings have for us today? We can learn from the oldest cave paintings in Spain and recent discoveries in America, that date back 6,000 yearsDiscovering ancient cave images that depict acts of service, celebration or community involvement allude to an understanding of humanity. Today, such things are paramount to our health and well-being. Upper Paleolithic humans understood the importance of community involvement. Today, nine out of ten people report getting a profound ‘emotional high’ from participating in activities that build community cohesion.

The importance of the Magura Cave

The Magura Cave in Bulgaria shows a great example of community. The depiction dating back over 8,000 years, shows women and men engaged in what is thought to be a festival. In the cave art, the community is capturing what is important to them – hunting to provide for the community and a fertility dance. To this day, coming together for important life events is essential human behaviour. The Magura Cave in particular is still a place for the community to gather for music concerts and other events.

Using art to communicate

Cave paintings illustrate the human need to communicate. This communication takes its form in leaving a mark for the future- to help guide, or communicate something so important that it needs a permanent representation. That is why the Altamira Cave in Spain is of major importance. Believed to be over 35,000 years old it mainly depicts bison. It goes beyond what you may have seen in ancient cave art. Instead, with these artworks the creators took into account the rock formations so that they could communicate the viscosity of the animal. The artist used the protruding rocks to exaggerate the features of animals and make them appear as though they were three dimensional. This experimentation shows an understanding of how to communicate effectively using visual prompts.

Pride and persuasion in cave paintings

Effective communication is particularly important when symbolism is used. The human beings ability to communicate symbolically has long been linked with our ‘humanness’.  Modern studies on how the brain responds to stimulus shows that humans have a powerful response when an image is distorted. In the Altamira Cave bisons are distorted according to the meat that they offer. Almost like an image in a butcher shop window that advertises the best organic meat available. This shows us that pride and persuasion were big parts of communication when cave painting.

We should not underestimate the importance of visual communication and how it shapes what we see as important. We can question the images we are presented with and endeavour to understand what they represent to us as a community member. Representing our lives via a set of symbols is nothing new. The hashtag movement, children under 12 ‘dabbing’ and a blue thumbs up for liking a youtube clip are all ways that we communicate today. Imagine what people will make of that in 35,000 years!