How to Change People’s Minds
The science of treating addiction may tell us something about how to change minds
Over the past few months, we’ve been traveling to conferences, meeting a lot of new people, and discussing the work we do for Critica and our book Denying to the Grave. When we talk to people about the difficulty of changing minds and the psychology behind why people tend to hold on to their viewpoints, we often get the same question over and over again: “So, how can we change minds?”
This is, for obvious reasons, not an easy question to answer, especially when you understand just how hard our brains work to shield us from having our viewpoints challenged. Try to think about the last time you changed your mind about something important – truly and completely changed your entire viewpoint and perspective on an issue. If you’re having trouble thinking of something, you’re not alone. Having our viewpoints challenged and ultimately changing our minds is actually quite unpleasant. It causes us to feel afraid, disoriented, and confused. While the ultimate outcome of a shifted viewpoint may be positive, the process of getting there is extremely intimidating. It is even more frightening when the point of view we currently hold is in some way central to our identities or a key viewpoint held by other members of a group to which we belong.
So when we kept getting the question about how to change minds, we had to stop and think about it. We certainly don’t have a definitive answer to this question. But we do have some ideas, which we shared in a recent piece for Psychology Today. We hope this piece is helpful, and we’d love to hear any strategies you find particularly useful in approaching difficult topics and changing minds.