Have you ever wondered why it's difficult to get someone to change their minds even when presented with the facts? Here's what appears to be a good book that explains why that is.
We would like to believe people are rational. We would like to believe that if they have formed a false belief based on inaccurate information and poor reasoning, they will change that belief when they are provided with accurate information and better reasoning. We are frequently disappointed.An example of what should happenI recently talked with a college professor who believed chiropractic treatment could lower blood pressure. His belief was based on a media report of a chiropractic study. He thought it was plausible that neck manipulation could somehow relieve obstructions to blood flow to the base of the brain, thereby somehow correcting the cause of high blood pressure. I told him that rationale was anatomically and physiologically implausible. I pointed out that the researchers used NUCCA, a form of manipulation that is rejected by most chiropractors. He did not know what NUCCA was. I provided him with information, including links to the study itself and to chiropractor Sam Homola’s excellent critique of the study. My friend changed his mind and thanked me for educating him.An example of what all too often happensI was invited to give the “con” side of a pro/con presentation on dowsing to a local discussion group. I lent my opponent my copy of Vogt and Hyman’s classic book Water Witching USA so he would know ahead of time what I was going to say. He read it. The book explains how the ideomotor effect creates the illusion that the dowsing rod moves of its own accord and explains that dowsers have never been able to pass controlled scientific tests. I said as much in my “con” presentation. His “pro” presentation consisted of two arguments: he had personally seen dowsing work, and lots of people believed in it. He didn’t even try to rebut my facts and arguments; he simply refused to engage with them in any way. It was as if he had not read the book and had not heard anything I said. Afterwards, one of the audience was heard to say she would have liked to hear more about how dowsing worked and less about how it didn’t work!.....Posted by Harriet Hall http://www.scienceba...unpersuadables/
Will Storr investigates
Sadly, some people are unpersuadable. They might as well be saying “My mind’s made up; don’t confuse me with the facts.” We have seen plenty of glaring examples in the comments section of this blog. Will Storr wrote a book The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science about his struggle to understand the phenomenon. He did a great job of investigative reporting, interviewing people with strange beliefs, spending time with them and also with their critics, and reading pertinent research.
Storr found that discussing evolution with religious fundamentalists was:
…like being a tourist in another Universe… Simple facts and basic logic just don’t work the way I had assumed… facts proved entirely ineffective, and they were ineffective to a spectacular and baffling extent.
The answers they gave to his reasonable questions were often hilarious. If T. rex was a vegetarian, why did he have such big teeth? To eat watermelons.
He found that he liked the people he interviewed. They were not stupid. What made them so unpersuadable? He quickly realized that he answer was not intelligence or education or logic. Something else was going on, but what was it?
He found some clues in recent brain research.How the brain deceives us
“I know what I saw.” No you don’t, your brain constructed an illusion. We have all seen amazing demonstrations of optical illusions, but we don’t realize we are seeing them constantly. Our brains deceive us. We don’t get the raw data from the retinal receptors; we only get the brain’s interpretation of the data. We can’t even see that we have a blind spot in each visual field corresponding to the place where the optic nerve enters the retina. The brain puts elements of vision together (horizontal lines, contrast, etc.) and constructs a best guess based on what it has learned about the world. We ignore most of our sensory input, becoming aware of things only on a need to know basis. It has been estimated that up to 90% of what you are seeing is constructed from your memories. As babies grow, they interact with the world and their brains develop internal models, ways of interpreting sensory inputs that involve shortcuts and illusions (example: if it looks smaller, it’s probably farther away). The brain builds models of what the world is like, and the senses are then used as fact-checkers, noticing anomalies that don’t match the model. If we receive information that fits well with our internal models, it is readily incorporated; if it differs, we “minimize, distort, rationalize and even hallucinate our way into disregarding this information…we lie to ourselves.”Posted by Harriet Hall http://www.scienceba...unpersuadables/