Con artists have been making a bit of a comeback on our screens of late thanks to the likes of Inventing Anna, The Puppet Master and The Tinder Swindler. The question everyone would like answered, though, is what makes them tick? Psychologist and neuroscientist Dr Sabina Brennan from TCD and Sunday Independent business editor Samantha McCaughren joined The Business on RTÉ Radio 1 to talk about the psychology of con artists (This piece includes excerpts from the conversation which have been edited for length and clarity - you can hear the discussion in full above).

So why do people become con artists in the first place? While money is part of it, Brennan says it's also about power. "There's probably some financial motivation to begin with, but it's also about the power and the thrill of it, the buzz, the kick they get out of it. They're obviously getting some sort of dopamine kick out of the act of conning people.

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Trailer for The Tinder Swindler

"From a personality perspective, psychologists who do research in this area, refer to the dark triad of personality traits, so narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism, and these three traits are overrepresented in con artists. Now, those traits can serve people well who engage in non-illegal activity, but generally speaking, people with this combination of traits tend to be manipulative, callous and do whatever it takes to get their own way. They have an inflated view of themselves, and they're really shameless in their self-promotion. They can also be impulsive: they engage in dangerous behavior and obviously commit crimes without any regard for the impact it can have on others."

Con artists also tend to very confident and cocky. "They have an overvaluation of themselves", says Brennan. "They are incredibly arrogant and can be really emotionally abusive when they don't get the treatment that they believe they deserve. You can see that coming out a bit in The Tinder Swindler, and also in that other really almost unbelievable documentary, The Puppet Master, that was real psychological manipulation."

We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Trailer for The Puppet Master

Do the victims who fall for the charms of these con atists share any psychological traits? "We're all open to being conned", points out Brennan. 'We have all probably been conned in very small ways. Who hasn't bought an item on sale that you discover later wasn't really on sale?

"Fundamentally, humans are trusting. We want to believe that the other person is telling the truth. What often happens is con artists take advantage of this tendency to trust, but it also involves a set of carefully orchestrated stages to build that trust. You saw that with The Tinder Swindler. On the first date, he swept her away on a private jet. Who's not going to believe that person actually has money? He told her he loved her. He asked her to look for apartments to live in. There's this building up of trust."

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

From RTÉ Radio 1's Morning Ireland, Arthur Beesley from The Irish Times profiles financier and fraudster Bernie Madoff, who died in prison in 2021

Some of the biggest con artists, says McCaughren, operated in the world of business, like Bernie Madoff. "He was a trader and chairman of the NASDAQ in the US, but he was really a con artist underneath everything. He had a €65 billion scam that ran for decades and he only got caught out when the crash hit and people wanted their money out.

"Instead of putting money into a very sophisticated investment strategy, he literally just put it into a big bank account and had a lavish lifestyle. As people needed money, he could withdraw it and keep them happy. But when everyone wanted to get it out at once, it became quite apparent it was all a big scam and thousands and thousands of people lost their money - not just fools and their money as they say are often parted, some very sophisticated investors. It's not just ordinary people who feel silly afterwards, it's quite sophisticated investors get caught up also in these scams."