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  • Writer's pictureJulia Gillis

How Minds Change; Book Review

This is a must read.

How Minds Change by David McRaney ( link) offers incredible insight to what actually causes people to change their minds.

Lesson No. 1 - people do not change their minds because of facts.

There is actually an inverse effect when presenting people with facts that support evidence against their beliefs or opinions. People will more often double-down on their current belief when presented with facts that prove otherwise. It puts them on the defense, which is no place for learning or curiosity.

McRaney explores the world of persuasion with some of the Western world's most controversial topics such as LGBTQ+ rights, abortion, if god is real, if the earth is flat or if 9/11 was an inside job. He visits heads of university psychology departments all over the United States, he spends time in organizations & labs who are doing 'deep canvasing' research & epistemology testing on the streets (the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.) He even spends time with leaders of major conspiracy groups; both current & retired.

The author takes us back all the way to the evolution of the human brain, before the ice age, to explain why we even need the ability to argue & persuade others or, to be persuaded ourselves. He covers everything from confirmation bias, group-think, political polarization & how we register social safety to be just as important as physical safety.

What I find to be the most fascinating aspect of his research is that minds don't actually change on a dime. Although there are many ways that directed marketing is able to create a momentary tidal wave of swayed pubic opinion or even a pressured flip in tight circumstances, a belief wont often change during the course of one conversation.

We are shown that they key to encouraging a full shift in someone's mind from believing making a long term, sustainable or permanent change to a different belief is: offering supportive opportunities for them to safely & comfortably explore personal experiences or their own explanation as to why a different belief could be also be true.

Debate is most often the enemy of persuasion. You are more likely to change someone's mind through tactics used in motivational interviewing, though the methods & skills outlined in this book offer incredible examples & deeper knowledge on connecting with people to help them explore their own mind. We get a very clear understanding of how baseline human thinking is designed to blind us from information that upsets an aspect of our safety or comfort. We are gifted at confirming our own bias while becoming critical & defensive of other's contending view. Our 'us vs. them' is a survival tactic.

There are only two short sections of this book I found difficult to follow but overall, there were some major 'aha' moments, including being able to connect dots as to why women (or people in general) don't leave abusive relationships & tools for how to help our children develop critical thinking about their own values & beliefs for their psycho-social development & maturity.


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Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. 

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