Can't Buy Happiness?

Money, personality, and well-being

Feeling Duped: Who Is To Blame When You're Scammed?

People who scored higher on sucker rumination are highly self-critical.

Gregory Preuss contributed to this blog.

Think of a time when you agreed to a deal even though it seemed too good to be true—when you were scammed by someone. How much did you blame yourself for reaching into your wallet or signing on the dotted line?

We have all heard the phrase “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Most of us can think of a time when we were duped—then we realize that we have fallen for a scam. Naturally, we become angry. We are angry at the person who cheated us. However, at times, we are angry at ourselves. We might think “if I had asked more questions or chosen differently, I would not have been tricked into this bad deal.”

In the article “Feeling Duped: Emotional, Motivational, and Cognitive Aspects of Being Exploited By Others” University of Minnesota marketing professor, Kathleen Vohs, Florida State University psychologist Roy Baumeister, and University of British Columbia psychologist Jason Chin (2007) describe feeling duped as the unpleasant emotional response to the perception that others have taken advantage us. Quite often this happens when we are trying to buy goods or services.

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More recent research by Washburn University psychologist Gregory Preuss and colleagues suggests that people differ in the degree to which they blame themselves for being duped. Some people repeatedly tell themselves that they should have known better than to fall for a scam. To measure the degree to which people experience unpleasant thoughts about themselves after being tricked during an economic transaction, these authors developed the Sucker Rumination Scale.

People who score high on the Sucker Rumination Scale tend to be more neurotic and less confident in their ability to make purchase decisions than others. However, there is a silver lining. Participants who scored higher on sucker rumination are more likely to learn something from a negative consumer experience. 

Do you blame yourself when others take advantage of you? To find out how you score on the Sucker Rumination Scale, we encourage you to Login or Register and take the Sucker Rumination Scale. You might then try the our Implicit Buying Motives Study to find out more about your subconscious buying motives. We think you may learn a lot about how you and why you spend your money the way you do.


Ryan T. Howell, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University.


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