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Facts Don’t Change People’s Minds. Here’s What Does.

From Ozan Varol:

If you had asked me this question–How do you change a mind?–two years ago, I would have given you a different answer.

As a former scientist, I would have cautioned you to rely on objective facts and statistics. Develop a strong case for your side, back it up with hard, cold, irrefutable data, and voila!

Drowning the other person with facts, I assumed, was the best way to prove that global warming is real, the war on drugs has failed, or the current business strategy adopted by your risk-averse boss with zero imagination is not working.

Since then, I’ve discovered a significant problem with this approach.

It doesn’t work.

The mind doesn’t follow the facts. Facts, as John Adams put it, are stubborn things, but our minds are even more stubborn. Doubt isn’t always resolved in the face of facts for even the most enlightened among us, however credible and convincing those facts might be.

As a result of the well-documented confirmation bias, we tend to undervalue evidence that contradicts our beliefs and overvalue evidence that confirms them. We filter out inconvenient truths and arguments on the opposing side. As a result, our opinions solidify, and it becomes increasingly harder to disrupt established patterns of thinking.

We believe in alternative facts if they support our pre-existing beliefs. Aggressively mediocre corporate executives remain in office because we interpret the evidence to confirm the accuracy of our initial hiring decision. Doctors continue to preach the ills of dietary fat despite emerging research to the contrary.

If you have any doubts about the power of the confirmation bias, think back to the last time you Googled a question. Did you meticulously read each link to get a broad objective picture? Or did you simply skim through the links looking for the page that confirms what you already believed was true? And let’s face it, you’ll always find that page, especially if you’re willing to click through to Page 12 on the Google search results.

To read the rest, click here.

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