Gullibility and Replying to Scam Emails

Teunisse, A. K. (Macquarie University), Case, T. I. (Macquarie University)

Last year, in Australia, over $107 million was lost to scammers (Australian Competition & Consumer Commission, 2017). The magnitude of the amount of money lost, and resulting psychological distress, is a clarion call to psychologists to investigate why some people are more likely to fall victim to scams than others. Gullibility is the acceptance of a false premise in the presence of untrustworthiness cues and a new scale has been developed to measure it (Teunisse, Case, Fitness, & Sweller, 2018). The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between gullibility and the intention to reply to scam emails. Participants (N = 155) completed measures of gullibility, cognitive ability, pseudo-profound bullshit detection, and were also presented with example scam emails. The participants rated the emails on the likelihood that they would respond to it, the perceived trustworthiness of the email, and the persuasiveness of the email. It was found that participants who scored higher on the Gullibility Scale found the emails significantly more persuasive and were more likely to respond to them compared with participants who had lower gullibility scores. The relationship between gullibility and the perceived trustworthiness of the email was not statistically significant. Implications are discussed.


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Personality and Personality Processes