Did You Fall For An April Fools' Prank? Read This

Photographed by Winnie Au.
This article was originally published on April 1, 2015.

Welp, it happened. You fell for one of the Internet's many wonderful April Fools' Day pranks — yet again. But, don't worry. Science has some good news for the gullible: You'll get over it.

Common sense might make you think being more gullible is a side effect of being more trusting. But, although the two traits are related, actual research indicates trust doesn't necessarily translate into gullibility. In one study, from way back in 1980, researchers found that people who had more trust in others also acted in a more trustworthy way — by lying less. These people were more likely to be happy, well-liked, and sought out as friends than those who were less trustworthy. However, surprisingly, gullibility wasn't different between those who had more trust in others and those who had less. So, even if you're not the type to pull pranks, that doesn't mean you're more likely to be fooled by them.

Another study, this one published in 1999, suggested that having social intelligence — an ability to accurately assess and navigate social situations — was actually a byproduct of being more trusting. (Basically, people who trust others are more likely to put themselves in social situations and therefore get better at dealing with those events.) And, those in the study who were more trusting and had high levels of social intelligence were actually less gullible than people who weren't as trusting. The more-trusting people only seem more gullible because they're entering into more situations overall and, therefore, opening themselves up to way more pranks. A more recent study even found that among older adults, higher levels of distrust were associated with gullibility.

Trust might just be a red herring — related to, but not the root of, your level of gullibility. Instead, as illusionist Derren Brown put it, "Somewhat counterintuitively, it’s the more trusting people that actually emerge as less gullible. They obviously get fooled, as we all do… but they tend to be very good at learning from those experiences where they have been duped."

The bottom line is that gullibility has more to do with your ability to accurately detect falsehoods than your level of trust in the people telling them. And, having the ability to separate the lie from the liar allows us to make more accurate judgments in the future. Luckily for the distrustful among us, this is something that can be learned. So, now that we've settled that, anyone wanna grab lunch?
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