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There are few things more frustrating than an opponent who won’t budge. We’ve all experienced those conversations with a voter on the other side of politics or a friend who is endlessly stubborn, in which any amount of evidence is insufficient in moving their position. Our natural impulse is to do just this: begin big in our persuasive efforts, believing that a barrage of information and evidence will knock someone from their position instantly. But, contrary to our aim the result of this approach is usually the other’s deeper entrenchment in their beliefs and a defensiveness that inhibits any further dialogue.
Far from being the rationally operating, pragmatic agents we like to believe we are, more often than not our decisions arise from the seat of our emotions. Our sense of certainty in reaching conclusions and making choices is far more connected to our impulses, emotional reactions and bodily sensations than we think. Rather than being quickly overridden by rational analysis, our emotions are a driving force in our behaviour, and are often the surest guarantee of our response.
Everybody wants a diverse team. Recent years have seen diversity become a new priority for businesses, often above other values – and for good reason! While quotas are a matter of some controversy, the contemporary push for diversity leads to some great results.
Psychologist Irving Janis argues that the lack of diversity in a group insulates it from outside opinion and convinces members over time that the group’s judgment on important issues must be right. These kinds of groups, Janis suggests, share “an illusion of invulnerability and a willingness to rationalize away possible counter-arguments to the group’s position.”
We all like to believe we put our mind over matter. Overall, we are rational agents with free will who have control over our bodies, impulses and sensations. However, more and more studies are emerging that prove this belief to be far from the truth.
Researchers across disciplines and cultures are showing that our bodies are far more involved in our thinking than we like to believe. Our cognitive processes are embedded in a system that involves various parts of the rest of our body, from our heart to our gut.
The human instinct to avoid social humiliation is deep. Psychologists point to shame as being one of the deepest fears held nearly universally by human beings, coming close to the fear of death. We all have the impulse to save face, and many of us get particularly defensive, aggressive or withdrawn when that impulse is challenged.
This fear of losing our dignity plays out in important ways in our everyday conversations. It is this very fear that is often the cause of us advocating opinions long after we have abandoned them, for fear of embarrassing ourselves by acknowledging our prior ignorance.
We are already seeing the metaverse transform things. All the way from work to play, this immersive and interactive version of the internet is engaging users across every field of life.
It’s worth noting that as recently as July 2021, the word ‘metaverse’ was nowhere to be found in the world of business and technology. While the term itself had been used by science fiction writers previously, the idea of a metaverse entered the mainstream lexicon in late 2021 when Mark Zuckerberg and others began to tout it as the way of the future. Facebook’s high-profile rebranding as Meta in October 2021 only solidified this idea.
At some point in history, the ideas and assumptions we take for granted were controversial. Now, their opposing idea would be the one considered extreme, and those who hold it are likely to be rejected or simply remain silent. Majority opinion feels stable, but it is constantly in flux.
Back in the 1930s, French historian and political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville, suggested that “As long as the majority is still undecided, discussion is carried on; but as soon as its decision is irrevocably pronounced, everyone is silent, and the friends as well as the opponents of the measure unite in assenting to its propriety.” Known as the Tocqueville effect, this dynamic in human behaviour is alive and well today.
If you have ever found yourself believing that humans only use 10 percent of their brain, that vitamin C cures a cold or that eating carrots improves eyesight, you have experienced the persuasive impact of repetition.
The reality is that none of statements above are true, but we have each heard them so many times throughout our lives that we naturally come to believe that they must be. This is something referred to as the “illusory truth effect.”
Politicians and marketers know well that if we hear something long enough and repeated often enough, we are likely to believe it to be true. The reason repetition is so effective is that it plays to the two variables by which we assess whether something is true or not: whether the information concurs with our understanding; and whether it feels familiar.
In a world of increasing polarisation, empathy stands out as a virtue that restores humanity to conversations and is persuasively powerful enough to change even the firmest of opinions. But, few things evoke empathy as poignantly as first-hand experience.
I vividly remember a simulated experience that forever changed my perspective on the plight of refugees. A few years ago, my family and I spent a few weeks volunteering at an aid agency in Hong Kong called Crossroads. While Crossroads’ core work is the shipment of essential aid and materials to impoverished people around the globe, they also have a commitment to education and community engagement.
Are you remembering things correctly? What do you do when you know something you can’t quite recall? What if our memories have evolved over time? What if we are in fact imagining that we have a memory that in fact does not exist?