Posted by: quiscus | November 17, 2010

November 17, 2010

1.  “How to Persuade Stubborn People

Psychologists and sociologists show us that people will rationalize what their leaders are doing, even when it makes no sense ….

Sociologists from four major research institutions investigated why so many Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11, years after it became obvious that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11.

The researchers found, as described in an article in the journal Sociological Inquiry (and re-printed by Newsweek):

  • Many Americans felt an urgent need to seek justification for a war already in progress
  • Rather than search rationally for information that either confirms or disconfirms a particular belief, people actually seek out information that confirms what they already believe.
  • “For the most part people completely ignore contrary information.”
  • “The study demonstrates voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information”
  • People get deeply attached to their beliefs, and form emotional attachments that get wrapped up in their personal identity and sense of morality, irrespective of the facts of the matter.
  • “We refer to this as ‘inferred justification, because for these voters, the sheer fact that we were engaged in war led to a post-hoc search for a justification for that war.
  • “People were basically making up justifications for the fact that we were at war”
  • “They wanted to believe in the link [between 9/11 and Iraq] because it helped them make sense of a current reality. So voters’ ability to develop elaborate rationalizations based on faulty information, whether we think that is good or bad for democratic practice, does at least demonstrate an impressive form of creativity.

An article yesterday in Alternet discussing the Sociological Inquiry article helps us to understand that the key to people’s active participation in searching for excuses for actions by the big boys is fear.

In the meantime, however, there may be an easier shortcut for persuading stubborn people.

Specifically, start by asking the following question:

Do you want to defend your feelings and beliefs or do you want to know the truth?

Most people will respond by saying “I want to know the truth, of course”.

They will say that because they don’t want to appear irrational, even if they usually are.

You can then start conveying facts, but repeatedly be sensitive to their feelings of resistance to the challenging facts you’re presenting, by saying things like:

“I found this hard to believe when I heard it, too”

“I know this is contrary to what we’ve been taught”

“I know it would be [painful or scary or infuriating or other adjective conveying a negative emotion] to believe that [the thing they don’t want to hear about]”

And if they are resisting hearing the facts, gently remind them that they said they wanted to know the truth.

If you don’t use these techniques, then the stubborn person’s automatic and unconscious processes will ensure that he or she will cling to old belief system no matter what you say. Remember, while you may be able to think logically, many people make most of their decisions based on emotions and faulty belief systems. Assuming that everyone uses the same decision-making process you do is the main impediment to going beyond preaching to the choir and persuading others.

There is some percentage of people who will never believe the facts, no matter how you say it. Sometimes it is best just to drop it. But the above-described techniques may work on a large percentage of stubborn people.”

2.  “TSA promises $10,000 fine for refusing airport body search ”


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