The Importance of Dissenting Voices

Be bold in the face of unanimous decisions, says entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan. Neuroscience, sociology and business meetings underscore her point. 

What's the Latest Development?

In a recent business meeting, entrepreneur and author Margaret Heffernan saw first hand the importance of a dissenting voice. The majority opinion of a new project was not favorable but the prevailing attitude was that it could not be rejected. As the CEO went down the table and one dissenting voice spoke up, everything changed. "Researchers have found that just knowing that there is a dissenting voice is enough to induce different cognitive processes that yield better judgments," says Heffernan.  

What's the Big Idea?

In the end, the project was rejected because majority opinion slowly coalesced around the dissenter's reasoned argument. The meeting, says Heffernan, demonstrated both the power and the fragility of groupthink. While we imagine we are immune from the power of suggestions, we typically are not. "If you ask volunteers in an fMRI scanner a simple question about a visual image, they will give the obviously wrong answer if they know that is what everyone else has done." Opening space for dissenting opinion is crucial for success. 

Photo credit:

Being a father to a school-age girl makes men less sexist, study suggests

The findings are based on a phenomenon known as the "Mighty Girl Effect."

Culture & Religion
  • The study tracked the responses of more than 5,000 men over the course of a decade.
  • The results showed that men who lived with daughters were less likely to hold traditional views on gender relations and roles.
  • This effect seemed to be strongest as the daughters entered secondary-school age.
Keep reading Show less

Study finds heterosexual women prefer benevolently sexist men

It’s been demonstrated that women are more attracted to men with attitudes of benevolent sexism. A new study asks why.

Just relax, young lady. We men can sort you out. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a minefield: Another new study presents evidence of what heterosexual women want. Still, the lead author of the study is a woman, Pelin Gul. (Her co-author is Tom R. Kupfer.) The study, recently published in Sage Journals, is called “Benevolent Sexism and Mate Preferences: Why Do Women Prefer Benevolent Men Despite Recognizing That They Can Be Undermining?” Previous studies suggest that this happens more often than you’d expect.

Keep reading Show less

Technology will kill the 9-to-5 work week, says Richard Branson

The billionaire entrepreneur predicts the rise of technology will soon force society to rethink the modern work week.

(Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
Technology & Innovation
  • Branson made the argument in a recent blog post published on the Virgin website.
  • The 40-hour work week stems from labor laws created in the early 20th century, and many have said this model is becoming increasingly obsolete.
  • The average American currently works 47 hours per week, on average.
Keep reading Show less