The Amygdala Hijack And Scam Victims [Infographic] – Expanded 2024

The Amygdala Hijack And Scam Victims

Understanding Automated Responses To Grooming Manipulation And Control During A Relationship Scam

A SCARS Guide & Infographic

The amygdala is a collection of cells near the base of the brain. There are two, one in each hemisphere or side of the brain. This is where emotions are given meaning, remembered, and attached to associations and responses to them (emotional memories).

Article Abstract

Scammers exploit a neurological phenomenon known as “Amygdala Hijack” to manipulate victims emotionally during romance scams.

Coined by Daniel Goleman, this term describes overwhelming emotional responses triggered by stimuli, often disproportionate to the actual situation. The amygdala, a part of the brain, reacts to perceived threats, initiating a fight, flight, or freeze response.

In romance scams, the thalamus directs signals to the amygdala instead of the cortex, bypassing rational processing. Scammers, by declaring love, induce a flood of peptides and hormones, creating emotional turmoil. Victims experience a loss of control, succumbing to the scammer’s influence.

Recognizing this process empowers individuals to regain control and avoid emotional manipulation, highlighting the importance of self-awareness in navigating future situations. Understanding “Amygdala Hijack” is pivotal in fostering resilience against scams.

SCARS Scam Victims' Support & Recovery Program - Click Here to Sign Up

Hijacking the Romance Scam Victim’s Mind

If You Are A Romance Scam Victim Then You Are A Victim Of The Amygdala Hijack!

One of the cornerstones of a Romance Scam (and its variations) is that before you are aware of it, your brain is hijacked via what is called an Amygdala Hijack.

This happens when the scammer starts to trigger emotional responses based on things they are telling you, such as when they tell you ‘they love you’ – it happens because of past emotional memories from times when you parents said they loved upon and other memories, and in part, it happens because you have projected your own wants and desires onto your online relationship almost from the beginning, and when the trigger event (the “I love you”) happens your brain is charged and ready to turn off your thinking and run away emotionally.


Do not confuse Amygdala Hijacks with something called ‘Love Bombing‘. The scammers use techniques called ‘Love Bombing‘. but that is not always a precise term because Love Bombing can be used to mean an Amygdala Hijack or for the process of induced affection that victims think of as love. We will explain more about the difference below.

The “Amygdala Hijack”

As it turns out this is hard-wired into humans – mostly in the Fight or Flight reactions, but there are many others.

Victims need to learn about this, so they can learn to be more in control in the future, by avoiding situations where it can be so costly. However, this is also very important in that it allows scam victims to understand (in part) why these crimes were not their fault!

About The Amygdala Hijack

Amygdala hijack is a term coined by Daniel Goleman in his 1996 book Emotional Intelligence: ‘Why It Can Matter More Than IQ’. Drawing on the work of others, he uses the term to describe emotional responses from people that are immediate and overwhelming, and out of measure with the actual stimulus because it has triggered a much more significant emotional threat or response (such as when the scammer tells you they love you)!

Technically How It Works

Part of the thalamus (a part of your brain – or as we like to say ‘one of the squishy bits’) receives stimuli that goes directly to the amygdala, while other parts are sent to the neocortex or “thinking brain”. Because of the brain’s wiring, the stimulus going to the amygdala arrives significantly faster and thus the amygdala can act much faster than the thinking part of the brain.

If the amygdala perceives a match to the stimulus, i.e., if the record of experiences in the hippocampus tells the amygdala that it is a fight, flight, or freeze situation, then the amygdala triggers the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis and hijacks the rational brain. This emotional brain activity processes information milliseconds earlier than the rational brain, so in case of a match, the amygdala acts before any possible direction from the neocortex (thinking part) can be received. If, however, the amygdala does not find any match to the stimulus received with its recorded threatening situations, then it acts according to the directions received from the neocortex. When the amygdala perceives a threat, it can lead that person to react irrationally and destructively.

Goleman states that emotions “make us pay attention right now—this is urgent—and gives us an immediate action plan without having to think twice. The emotional component evolved very early: Do I eat it, or does it eat me?” The emotional response “can take over the rest of the brain in a millisecond if threatened.” An amygdala hijack exhibits three signs: strong emotional reaction, sudden onset, and post-episode realization if the reaction was inappropriate.

“Self-control is crucial…when facing someone who is in the throes of an amygdala hijack” so as to avoid a complementary hijacking—whether in work situations or in private life. Thus for example: one key marital competence is for partners to learn to soothe their own distressed feelings…nothing gets resolved positively when the husband or wife is in the midst of an emotional hijacking. The danger is that “when our partner becomes, in effect, our enemy, we are in the grip of an ‘amygdala hijack’ in which our emotional memory, lodged in the limbic center of our brain, rules our reactions without the benefit of logic or reason…which causes our bodies to go into a ‘fight or flight’ response.”

But these hijacks can happen in cases of positive emotional responses too!

Positive Amygdala Hijacks

The amygdala can be involved in positive emotional responses as well. The amygdala, being the complex structure in the brain that it is, plays a fundamental role in processing emotions, both positive and negative ones. It is involved in the formation and storage of emotional memories, and its activation can contribute to the intensity of emotional experiences.

In the case of positive emotions, such as joy, love, or happiness, the amygdala may become activated to enhance the encoding and retention of those positive emotional memories. Positive experiences can lead to the release of neurotransmitters and hormones that contribute to feelings of reward and pleasure. Note that these are short-lived emotional responses, they are not love or lasting affection and bonding. However, the positive reactions can create a setup for the development of lasting emotional bonds.

In the case of scams or manipulative tactics, scammers may exploit the amygdala’s role in processing positive emotions to create a sense of trust, affection, or attachment in their victims. They might use various techniques, including love bombing to trigger positive emotional responses and strengthen the emotional connection between the scammer and the victim.

It’s important to note that the amygdala’s involvement in emotional processing is complex, and its activation is not inherently negative. The amygdala’s role is adaptive, helping individuals form emotional memories that guide behavior and decision-making. However, in the context of scams, manipulation involves exploiting these natural processes to deceive and manipulate victims emotionally, whether through positive or negative emotional experiences.

In The Case Of Romance Scams

  1. Sensation received by our eyes and other senses is routed to the Thalamus.
  2. The Thalamus acts as a “Controller” to keep the signals moving. In a typical situation, the thalamus directs the impulse to the cortex for processing. But if the stimulus triggers an emotional response by the amygdala.
  3. The cortex “thinks” about the impulse and makes sense of it, if the amygdala has not acted first. “Aha!” it says, “this is a …” and responds accordingly. BUT in the case of a Romance Scam, that signal is sent to the Amygdala where a flood of peptides and hormones are released to create emotion and action. You have basically lost control!
  4. This is “The Amygdala Hijack” where the amygdala has a different reaction. It bypasses the cortex (the “Thinking Brain”) and is immediately acted on by the amygdala where it reacts based on previously stored patterns. Meaning that you do what it wants rather than the other way around!

The result is that once you have been hijacked by the scammer setting you up, your brain ignores your “thinking” side and reacts appropriately. However, the scammer has to constantly reinforce this. They will also employ “Gaslighting” to get you to ignore your logical thinking as well, as well as another technique called ‘Love Bombing‘.

Learn more about Love Bombing here: Love Bombing & Amygdala Hijacked Scam Victims 2024 (

Amygdala-Hijack and Romance Scams
Say Hello To Your Little Friend - SCARS Amygdala Infographic - on
The Amygdala Hijack And Scam Victims [Infographic] - Expanded 2024 1
SCARS Relationship Scam Addiction Infographic - on
The Amygdala Hijack And Scam Victims [Infographic] - Expanded 2024 2
Major Brain Functions - SCARS Infographic

SCARS Resources:

Other Cyber Resources

-/ 30 /-

What do you think about this?
Please share your thoughts in a comment below!

To Learn More

Here is an excellent description of the Amygdala Hijack and its effects:


SCARS FREE Support & Recovery Program - 4 EVER FREE

Do You Need Support?
Get It Now!

SCARS provides the leading Support & Recovery program for relationship scam victims – completely FREE!

Our managed peer support groups allow victims to talk to other survivors and recover in the most experienced environment possible, for as long as they need. Recovery takes as long as it takes – we put no limits on our support!

SCARS is the most trusted support & education provider in the world. Our team is certified in trauma-informed care, grief counseling, and so much more!

To apply to join our groups visit

We also offer separate support groups for family & friends too.

SCARS STAR Membership

Become a

SCARS offers memberships in our STAR program, which includes many benefits for a very low annual membership fee!

SCARS STAR Membership benefits include:

  • FREE Counseling or Therapy Benefit from our partner
  • Exclusive members-only content & publications
  • Discounts on SCARS Self-Help Books Save
  • And more!

To learn more about the SCARS STAR Membership visit

To become a SCARS STAR Member right now visit

SCARS Publishing Self-Help Recovery Books Available At

Scam Victim Self-Help Do-It-Yourself Recovery Books

SCARS Printed Books For Every Scam Survivor From SCARS Publishing


Each is based on our SCARS Team’s 32-plus years of experience.

SCARS Website Visitors receive an Extra 10% Discount
Use Discount Code “romanacescamsnow” at Checkout



Legal Disclaimer:

The content provided on this platform regarding psychological topics is intended solely for educational and entertainment purposes. The publisher makes no representations or warranties regarding the accuracy or completeness of the information presented. The content is designed to raise awareness about various psychological subjects, and readers are strongly encouraged to conduct their own research and verify information independently.

The information presented does not constitute professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any psychological disorder or disease. It is not a substitute for professional medical or mental health advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Readers are advised to seek the guidance of a licensed medical professional for any questions or concerns related to their mental health.

The publisher disclaims any responsibility for actions taken or not taken based on the content provided. The treatment of psychological issues is a serious matter, and readers should consult with qualified professionals to address their specific circumstances. The content on this platform is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, a therapist-client relationship.

Interpretation and Definitions


For the purposes of this Disclaimer:

  • Company (referred to as either “the Company”, “We”, “Us” or “Our” in this Disclaimer) refers to Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (registered d.b.a. “SCARS”,) 9561 Fountainbleau Blvd., Suit 602, Miami FL 33172.
  • Service refers to the Website.
  • You means the individual accessing this website, or the company, or other legal entity on behalf of which such individual is accessing or using the Service, as applicable.
  • Website refers to, accessible from

Website Disclaimer

The information contained on this website is for general information purposes only.

The Company assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions in the contents of the Service.

In no event shall the Company be liable for any special, direct, indirect, consequential, or incidental damages or any damages whatsoever, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tort, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Service or the contents of the Service. The Company reserves the right to make additions, deletions, or modifications to the contents on the Service at any time without prior notice.

The Company does not warrant this website in any way.

External Links Disclaimer

This website may contain links to external websites that are not provided or maintained by or in any way affiliated with the Company.

Please note that the Company does not guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of any information on these external websites.

Errors and Omissions Disclaimer

The information given by SCARS is for general guidance on matters of interest only. Even if the Company takes every precaution to ensure that the content of this website is both current and accurate, errors can occur. Plus, given the changing nature of laws, rules, and regulations, there may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in the information contained on this website.

SCARS is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.

Fair Use Disclaimer

SCARS may use copyrighted material that has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Company is making such material available for criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, or research.

The Company believes this constitutes a “fair use” of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the United States Copyright law.

If You wish to use copyrighted material from this website for your own purposes that go beyond fair use, You must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Views Expressed Disclaimer

The Service may contain views and opinions which are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other author, agency, organization, employer, or company, including SCARS.

Comments published by users are their sole responsibility and the users will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The Company is not liable for any comment published by users and reserves the right to delete any comment for any reason whatsoever.

No Responsibility Disclaimer

The information on the Service is provided with the understanding that the Company is not herein engaged in rendering legal, accounting, tax, medical or mental health, or other professional advice and services. As such, it should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional accounting, tax, legal, medical or mental health, or other competent advisers.

In no event shall the Company, its team, board of directors, volunteers, or its suppliers be liable for any special, incidental, indirect, or consequential damages whatsoever arising out of or in connection with your access or use or inability to access or use the Service.

“Use at Your Own Risk” Disclaimer

All information on this website is provided “as is”, with no guarantee of completeness, accuracy, timeliness or of the results obtained from the use of this information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including, but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.

SCARS will not be liable to You or anyone else for any decision made or action taken in reliance on the information given by the Service or for any consequential, special, or similar damages, even if advised of the possibility of such damages.

Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Disclaimer, You can contact Us:

  • By email:

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.






This content and other material contained on the website, apps, newsletter, and products (“Content”), is general in nature and for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical, legal, or financial advice; the Content is not intended to be a substitute for licensed or regulated professional advice. Always consult your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider, lawyer, financial, or tax professional with any questions you may have regarding the educational information contained herein. SCARS makes no guarantees about the efficacy of information described on or in SCARS’ Content. The information contained is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible situations or effects. SCARS does not recommend or endorse any specific professional or care provider, product, service, or other information that may be mentioned in SCARS’ websites, apps, and Content unless explicitly identified as such.

The disclaimers herein are provided on this page for ease of reference. These disclaimers supplement and are a part of SCARS’ website’s Terms of Use. 

All original content is Copyright © 1991 – 2023 Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc. (Registered D.B.A SCARS) All Rights Reserved Worldwide & Webwide. Third-party copyrights acknowledge.

U.S. State of Florida Registration Nonprofit (Not for Profit) #N20000011978 [SCARS DBA Registered #G20000137918] – Learn more at

View the claimed and or registered indicia, service marks, and trademarks of Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc., All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Contact the law firm for the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Incorporated by email at

Share This Information - Choose Your Social Media!


  1. Anonymous October 25, 2018 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    how do I get to image search the best way

  2. Julie April 30, 2018 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    How can you tell if a bank transfer details are true or false and what they are telling you is true

    • Romance Scams Now Editorial Team April 30, 2018 at 5:09 pm - Reply

      Do you personally know the person in real life? or JUST online? If just online assume it is a scam!

    • Ignatz May 19, 2018 at 10:42 pm - Reply

      If you have to ask, I’m assuming that it’s already too late.

  3. Carol April 23, 2018 at 12:25 pm - Reply

    How can you tell if picture is fake or find out if it stolen

Please Leave A Comment - Tell Us What You Think About This!