If facts don’t change our minds, what does?

Posted on April 7, 2017  /  0 Comments

LIRNEasia has a culture of internal colloquia – either pertaining to one’s research or of general interest. This is good because it forces some of us to read. And think. Once ingrained, it lingers on subconsciously, is applied (if and when applicable) or in the least provides perspective. Either way, the outcome is positive. A recent colloquium was based on a New Yorker piece on Why facts don’t change our minds. “Bullocks” is what I thought. But as the cognitive scientists have proven, apparently time and time again, is that they, in fact, don’t. They also go on to prove that even in instances when you are told the evidence is falsified, people still don’t make revisions to their conclusions. Is there a design flaw in the way in which we have been wired?

  1. We base too much on perception and impressions. If we are praised we continue thinking that we’re better than we are (and the same vice-versa).
  2. We inherently place too much emphasis on confirmation bias. (“the tendency people have to embrace information that supports their beliefs and reject information that contradicts them.”)
  3. We believe that we know way more than we actually do
  4. We take genuine pleasure (complete with the release of dopamine) in processing information that supports our beliefs.

So if facts don’t work, then what does? And it what setting would this be the most critical? Instinctively I think of a court room. And then I recall all the episodes of Law & Order, Suits and Alley McBeal – where lawyers in their opening and closing statements, always, always, appeal to the emotions of the jury. The facts are presented. But in the end it’s that emotional appeal that counts.


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