2 words that change minds: you’re stupid

February 11, 2022

Did you ever wonder why it's so hard to change people's minds about things?

Liberals never seem to be able to persuade conservatives that global warming is real, and vice versa.

Marxists have been trying for over a century now to get the working classes to stop being selfish and rise up against their capitalist oppressors (or at least lay off the gulags). 

And Christians still haven't done away with all those idiots who refuse to accept evolution.

Why is this? If your side is the one telling the truth, why isn't it enough just to say so? It can't really be because they're self-righteous jerks, can it?

"They'll Come Around to My Way of Thinking..."

You might think that the answer is simply a matter of time: Eventually everyone will come around to accepting the correct view of things. But this doesn't make much sense.

Lots of people have been trying to persuade others of all kinds of things for as long as people have been writing things down, and yet those incorrect views remain dominant.

No, the real reason that it's impossible to change other people's minds has nothing at all to do with time or righteousness or anything like that. It has to do with something much simpler: 

The fact is that you're not really trying to change their minds, are you? If you were, then you'd know how hard it would be; you'd have a better idea of just how much evidence you'd need before someone's mind would be changed. Instead, what you're trying to do is make them realize that they are wrong. 

But since the only way to do this is to get your point across to them - i.e., to change their minds about it - you might as well give up right now and go see the new Wallace & Gromit movie instead or something.

You Cannot Force People to Change Their Minds...Unless You 'Cook the Books'

It may sound condescending saying that, but honestly, there's really no tactful way of putting it.

The thing is that getting people to consider diverging views about certain topics has less to do with actually persuading them than it does with making them feel stupid for thinking those other things

If you make them feel stupid enough, then they will change their minds to avoid looking like idiots. But this doesn't mean that what they now think is the truth; it just means that they think what you want them to so as not to look dumb anymore

And since we're not talking about changing any of those people's minds about anything important—just about evolution, global warming, the future of mankind and so on—this isn't very useful at all.

Changing Hearts and Minds One at a Time Argument

Really, I'm surprised anyone thinks persuasion through sheer force of argument is effective or even possible.

After all, if the only thing keeping someone from accepting a particular view was his unwillingness to believe it, then why would he decide to change his mind just because some jerk called him an idiot?

The more likely explanation is that the person you're trying to convince isn't, but someone else is...someone who wants him to believe what you want him to believe

And if this is really the case, then your only chance of changing his mind through sheer force of argument would be by somehow tricking said third party into making him feel stupid instead.

Harnessing the Science of Persuasion: Or Just a Parlor Trick?

The problem is that, at least for now, it's not very easy to do this sort of thing on a mass scale. At best, all you can hope for are some cheap parlor tricks that people are bound to figure out eventually.

For example: Those ads from oil companies that show polar bears floating around happily in an endless expanse of ice and then tell us that they need our help to protect their home? That's an appeal by the oil companies themselves, trying to make us feel bad for those poor creatures.

But since they're doing it in order to sell us something—more fossil fuels—then all we end up doing is feeling guilty about buying gas instead of guilty about destroying the environment. 

I don't think this really counts as persuasion so much as it does manipulation; tricking people into caring...tricking people in to 'your point of view' isn't persuasion because you still have nothing but tricks.

See? I'm Just Trying to Change YOUR Mind...Right?

We whine about not being able to change people's minds, but if we just stopped and thought about what was actually happening here for a moment, then maybe we'd realize that things aren't nearly as bleak as we think.

I mean, sure, we're exposed to some truly reprehensible stuff while we're out and about on the good ol' 'internets'.  But that's just it: we're exposed to it.  It's right there in front of us and says it's okay if we want to agree with it.  

Even though I'm pretty damn certain none of us actually want to stand up and defend any of this crap, it doesn't mean that the people responsible for the entire affair don't get what they want...IF they're able to manipulate you.

If they are able to manipulate you...what did they REALLY achieve...other than to satisfy their own misguided notion that 'they know the truth'.

We all still know very little...and I suspect that's how it was meant to play out.

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