5 pitfalls to understanding people’s motives

While watching the evening news a few weeks back, I encountered a fascinating example of why detecting and analyzing the behavior of others is so challenging. The newscasters were debating the motivation of Bernie Madoff, who was sentenced to 150 years in federal prison for perpetrating a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme that many believe is the most sinister white-collar crime in the history of mankind. The broadcasters had some intriguing ideas as to why Madoff would sacrifice his career, destroy his family, and risk the savings of thousands of investors for his own selfish gain.

The broadcasters concluded that Madoff’s motive was indisputably avarice and greed – a logical conclusion that is entirely wrong, at least based upon what Madoff told me, and what we know from research.  Read more