Even if you’re intelligent, facts won’t make you change your mind

We know for a fact that people are not very good at changing their opinions – especially if the opinion is strongly linked to their world view and identity. Facts that try to jeopardise our identity cause a flight or fight reaction. I’ve quoted the Oatmeal comic “You’re not going to believe what I’m about to tell you” so many times it must be tiring already. But it’s not just such a brilliant comic, it is also true.

I’m often asked – and I think it is more of a wish than a question – that surely intelligent, analytical and logical people are immune to this reaction. It must be that intellect will save us from the primal reaction? The more analytical and logical people are the more likely they’re gonna change their opinion based on new facts? Right?

I’m afraid that’s not the case

Tali Sharot, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, tells you in the following video that facts will not make us change our opinion or point of view.

She also points out that the same applies to very intelligent people. Intelligent person is very good at using his or her intellect to explain away the facts that are trying to wreck the world view. So even intelligent, analytical, logical people tend to keep their old worldview, not to change it based on facts.

Game over?

Okay so we’re doomed to keep our faulty view of the world whether we’re intelligent or not. How on earth did we manage to get this far with our stupid brains? Probably because using facts to try to make a person change their opinion is not our only option.

Instead we can can try to find the common ground. In the video Sharot uses the example of vaccination. Even the parents who are against vaccinating their children have the same goal: to keep the child safe and healthy. By pointing out all the diseases that the vaccines protect the child from it is much easier to change the mind of the parent than trying to convince that vaccines are safe.

So for example if we disagree on the technological choice we still have the same goal: to make a brilliant project. Instead of trying to convince you why my choice for technology is better than yours, I’ll try to make you see, how my choice will affect the outcome of the project.

Find the common ground, what we agree on, where our interests meet and what we’re aiming for together and then start approaching the subject from that angle.

Does the thought make you uneasy that even you’re not immune to keeping your faulty world view? The discussion continues in Slack or below on comments.

Or what do you think?

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