Authored by , Reviewed by Danny Chadburn | Last edited | Meets Patient’s editorial guidelines

Gullibility is a much maligned illness. Without it we wouldn't have Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. On the other hand, we wouldn't have PPI, hedge fund managers or tabloid newspapers.

The word 'gullibility' isn't in the dictionary. And if you believe that, you'll have had first-hand experience of gullibleness. It actually means being easily taken in or naïve. It needs to be differentiated from 'gull ability' - the skill acquired by coastal birds to swoop down and pinch your ice cream.

We all know someone who is too ready to believe everything that other people say. If you don't know anyone in your social circle who is like that, it's probably you.

According to scientists (one of the major opening phrases to lure the gullible) gullibility developed from the positive need to acquire knowledge from other members of your herd. Being ready to learn about the world from the experiences of others is thought to have been a major factor in human development.

Gullibility is an inherited condition. An element of gullibility must be involved when perfectly reasonable people agree voluntarily to undergo the pain of childbirth, years of nappy changes, sleepless nights and student loans secured by the Bank of Mum and Dad. Hearts, flowers, true love and alcohol are often aggravating features.

The gene for gullibility has been isolated. It controls the production of a chemical called the gullibility hormone. The gullibility gene is on the same chromosome as the X-factor, the gene responsible for the urge to spend hard-earned cash voting for TV talent shows.


Tell people there's an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority will believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure.

— George Carlin

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Anyone can suffer from gullibility, and it seems to be no respecter of gender or economic status. However, some people tend to suffer from it more than others.

Risk factors include:

Socio-economic background

Studies have found that people who have suffered life's hard knocks when growing up tend to be more gullible than those who have not. This is surprising, but the theory goes that people who have experienced adverse life events such as bullying at school or difficulties at work, tend to trust the judgement of others over their own.


Gullibility is most evident in the very young and the very old. It's not difficult to influence the behaviour of children by invoking the Sandman, the Bogeyman or the Elf on the Shelf. Such gullibility is rather sweet and can be very helpful to harassed parents. However, it can become a problem when it persists into adulthood, making you more susceptible to believe party political broadcasts or closing down sale bargains.

The other extreme of age seems to predispose to the urge to give away one's life savings to anyone who phones up wanting to sell you a bungalow, re-tile your roof or transfer money to an exiled Nigerian prince.

Alcohol consumption

Double-blind drunk studies suggest that the amount of alcohol consumed is directly proportional to the gullibility level circulating in the bloodstream. At 150 mg/decilitres of alcohol, one subject was persuaded to eat a garage-bought pasty. At 200 mg they were prepared to buy a timeshare in the Costa del Sol. And at 250 mg they told the researcher they were their best mate, they loved them, they really did.

Symptoms of gullibility include:

  • A feeling of anxiety, only relieved by watching infomercials.
  • A rapid pulse when uncovering a scratch card.
  • Buying a mobile phone from someone you met in a pub.
  • Harbouring the belief that if it's on the Internet, it must be true.
  • A feeling of elation when you read your horoscope.

Scientists say that anyone who believes what scientists say is likely to be suffering from gullibility.


of statistics are made up on the spot

Source: Miss Leading

Gullibility may be mild, moderate or severe, depending on how much gullibility hormone is produced.

It's also worth mentioning the converse condition - gullibility deficiency. In its extreme form, complete absence of the gullibility hormone results in a patient who is hard-nosed, devoid of social graces and completely lacking in self-awareness.

Read more about Piers Morgan Syndrome here.

Gullibility test

The condition is diagnosed by applying the gullibility test. This involves completing a profiling questionnaire of 750 questions, including:

  • Q. Are battery hens rechargeable?
  • Q. Which bottled water goes best with a quinoa superfood salad?

Attempting to complete this questionnaire in the belief that it has any scientific validity whatsoever is incontrovertible evidence of gullibility.

MRI and CT scans are never helpful but always performed. Radiologists cannot live on isotopes alone.

Lifestyle changes

Food-free diets, omega-infused yoghurt drinks, and gym membership are the mainstays of treatment. It doesn't matter what medicines you take, unless you make lifestyle changes which are expensive, restrictive and impossible to maintain for more than six weeks, you will remain gullible for the rest of your life.

Homeopathy and allopathy

Homeopathy is the mainstay of treatment. It involves taking minuscule, basically undetectable doses of medicine in your own home. It is akin to allopathy, which involves taking minute doses of medicine in someone else's home. Allopathy should not be confused with Allokathy, a greeting used by TV soap actors in the 1980s.

Intravenous cynicism

This is the mainstay of treatment. It is not available on the NHS, is untested, and not licensed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency. It can, however, be easily purchased online and can be administered without difficulty by any suitably untrained friend.


These are always worth a try.

A huge systematic review of all the available treatments by leading authorities, concluded that more research was needed, about the same time next year, preferably somewhere warm.

As a congenital condition there is little that can be done to prevent gullibility. However, a vaccine is being developed for people with more money than sense.

It has been found that any substance injected into your bottom by a private doctor at huge expense will lower your risk of gullibility. It takes effect as soon your credit card statement arrives.

Further reading

  • A History of Gullibility, 1871: Barnum PT.
  • NICE Technical Guide 2018: Gullibility - are drugs ending in 'mab' available in your postcode area?
  • Public Health England, 2018: The Gullibility Handbook for Schools - Is That Really Mum's Signature?
  • Cognitive Behaviour Therapy - Let's Tick That Box; 2015; West, Kanye.
  • Don't Be So ******* Stupid, 2016; Clarkson J.

Disclaimer: prior to believing anything contained in this leaflet, please check the publication date.

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