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The Science of Deception – Psychology and Commerce in America - Chicago Scholarship Online
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The Science of Deception: Psychology and Commerce in America

Michael Pettit


During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Americans were fascinated with fraud. P. T. Barnum artfully exploited the American yen for deception, and even Mark Twain championed it, arguing that lying was virtuous insofar as it provided the glue for all interpersonal intercourse. But deception was not used solely to delight, and many fell prey to the schemes of con men and the wiles of spirit mediums. As a result, a number of experimental psychologists set themselves the task of identifying and eliminating the illusions engendered by modern, commercial life. By the 1920s, however, ... More

Keywords: fraud, P. T. Barnum, deception, Mark Twain, lying, interpersonal intercourse, con men, spirit mediums, experimental psychologists, deliberate misdirection

Bibliographic Information

Print publication date: 2013 Print ISBN-13: 9780226923741
Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2013 DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226923758.001.0001


Affiliations are at time of print publication.

Michael Pettit, author