What stops people from changing their minds?
A persistent barrage of information is not the best method for getting through to someone with a different point of view.
JONAH BERGER: Often when we think about changing someone's mind, whether it's in our personal lives or professional lives, we think the answer is pushing. If it's trying to change our spouse's mind, we think about listing more reasons. We think about changing the boss's mind, we think about making one more PowerPoint presentation. And it's clear why we think that'll work. If you think about the physical world, take a chair for example, and we think about moving a chair, pushing is often a great way to get a chair to go.
But when it comes to applying that same intuition to people there's a challenge, which is, when we push chairs, chairs go. When we push people they don't necessarily go, they often push back. Often, you know, we push, and we prod, and we add more reasons, or more facts, or more figures, and nothing happens. Change is really hard. And so, if pushing isn't the answer, well, well what is?
And it turns out there's this interesting analogy in chemistry. Chemical change is really hard. It often takes thousands if not millions of years for carbon to turn into diamonds, and plant matter to turn into oil. And so chemists often add temperature and pressure to make change happen faster. But it turns out, there's a special set of substances chemists often use to make change happen faster and easier. These substances are called catalysts. And what catalysts neatly do, in the chemical world, is they make change happen faster with less energy. They reduce, essentially, the barrier to change.
And in the social world, we tend to think about catalysts as just people that catalyze change, that cause change to happen. But really, in this book, I'm borrowing on that same notion from chemistry. Too often we think change is about pushing. We think if we just come up with one more way people will eventually come around. Rarely though, do we take a step back and say, "Well, hold on, why hasn't that person changed already? What's stopping them? What's the thing getting in the way—that barrier or that obstacle that's getting in the way—and how can I mitigate it?"
I've talked to everyone, from startup founders, and people who changed their boss's mind, to folks that got their kids to do what they wanted their kids to do, or change their spouse's behavior. But also more interesting types of individuals that changed things in the almost most difficult of circumstances. I talked to people that have gotten folks to come from one political side to the other. I've talked to hostage negotiators that got people to come out with their hands up. And I've talked to people like substance abuse counselors, who've gotten people to quit even when quitting hadn't worked in the past.
Again and again, I saw the same five barriers come up, and so I put them in the framework: reactants, endowment, distance, uncertainty, and corroborating evidence, together spell the word reduce, which is exactly what great catalysts do. The basic idea of reactants is when we push people, they push back, they don't just go along with what we want them to do, they push back. And so, we need to figure out how to reduce that by giving them freedom and autonomy.
Endowment. The basic idea there is we tend to be attached to the status quo. We tend to do what we've done already because it feels safe, because we know it, and we become attached to it. And so the challenge there is how do we highlight that doing nothing isn't as safe or as costless as people might think?
D, for distance. There, the challenge is often we ask for too much, and when we ask for too much, people aren't even willing to consider what we're asking for. And so we need to shrink distance and start with smaller asks, and then ask for more.
Uncertainty. There, it's just that new things are often uncertain, whether it's a new product, a new service, new idea. That's always scary. And people don't want to move from a safe thing to a scary one. And so, how we can alleviate uncertainty, make people feel more comfortable with change that's often scary.
And then last but not least, corroborating evidence is about providing more proof. Particularly for big change, we need more evidence or more proof that it's gonna be good for us. And so there, it's about bringing together multiple sources of influence to change minds and drive action.
The principles vary across situations, right? You know, sometimes the barrier is reactants, and other times it's uncertainty, sometimes it's endowment, and sometimes it's more about distance. But it's not more about, you know, products and services versus personal change; the same things come up all the time. So if you're a boss of a small organization, people still have reactants. Same if you're part of a large organization and talking to a client. The barriers are often quite similar. It's more about how we apply barrier removal, the specific strategies we might use to do so, but the concepts are very much the same.
And that's exactly what great catalysts do. They don't push harder, they don't add more temperature or more pressure. They figure out what the barriers are to change and they mitigate them.
- When you want someone to see things differently and to abandon their previous stance, sometimes persistence is not key.
- "Too often we think change is about pushing," says Jonah Berger, author of the book The Catalyst: How to Change Anyone's Mind, and a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. "We think if we just come up with one more way people will eventually come around."
- Through speaking with people who have successfully changed minds of others, Berger identified five common barriers and created the REDUCE framework for finding the catalysts needed to break through: reactants, endowment, distance, uncertainty, and corroborating evidence.
- How to change a climate denier's mind - Big Think ›
- Facts Don't Win Fights: Here's How to Cut Through Confirmation Bias ›
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What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
We’ve mapped a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way. Take the virtual tour here.
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Astronomers have mapped about a million previously undiscovered galaxies beyond the Milky Way, in the most detailed survey of the southern sky ever carried out using radio waves.
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Credit: NAOJ<p><em>Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.</em></p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.