Just A Thought

This Column Won’t Change Your Mind

Just a Thought, Guest Commentary
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Rick Kraft

You will not change your mind by reading this column, but you will have a better understanding of how you and others think.

Have you ever argued with someone over an issue until you are blue in the face only to leave the argument right where the two of you started, without either one of you making any progress in changing the other’s mind? I know I have.

My son sent me an article titled, “This Article Won’t Change Your Mind,” from “The Atlantic.” The subhead was, “The facts on why facts alone can’t fight false beliefs.”

The article shares results of studies that show how complex we are. It talks about “cognitive dissonance,” and how discomforting it is to hold two conflicting thoughts within us. A book by Henry Riecken and Stanley Schacter, “When Prophecy Fails,” is quoted as saying, “A man with a conviction is a hard man to change. Tell him you disagree, and he turns away. Show him facts or figures and he questions your sources. Appeal to logic and he fails to see your point. … Suppose that he is presented with evidence, unequivocal and undeniable evidence, that his belief is wrong: what will happen? The individual will frequently emerge, not only unshaken, but even more convicted of the truth of his beliefs than ever before.”

This is how we avoid the discomfort of dissonance. We convince ourselves of something and we avoid, ignore, forget or argue against information that contradicts our beliefs.

It’s working backward. We begin with our end belief and we line up what we hear to support it.

We’re filled with convictions and core beliefs that we’ve developed over our lives. We have our base world views. We hold tight to them and fight against change. I call this a “true north.” It is an absolute position that we’ve determined, and everything else is to be lined up under these beliefs.

Would any data change your mind on how you feel about abortion? How about your political beliefs? What about your spiritual convictions? Change, although possible, it is not likely.

We find comfort in our core beliefs, and when we are bombarded with information and data in our daily lives, we line it up to support our true north.

Years ago I was asked by a man when the last time was that I saw an orange VW bug. My response was, “I have no idea.” He said, “That is because you are not looking for them.” He was right. I have not missed an orange VW bug since. Why? Because I am consciously aware every time one comes into my life. We all see what we’re looking for.

We filter what we perceive. We spin how we want to receive information.

The article talks about a study with students listening to taped messages on smoking and Christianity. The talks had static. Students who smoked pushed a button to reduce the static on messages that were less negative on smoking and churchgoers were less likely to push the static reducing button on anti-Christian talks.

Interesting. We choose what we want to listen carefully to. The article calls our behavior “selective exposure.” We all have this.

We choose what source we want to hear to our news from. We choose what media we want to follow. We choose where we worship. What we choose to put into our head typically supports our world view.

Bottom line, we don’t live life in a dark cave with an entirely open mind. I’m not faulting or passing judgment on anyone for seeing and filtering life the way they do. I myself plead guilty to having core beliefs that I don’t plan to change regardless of data or input.

With open access on the internet to anything, we can hold just about any position and then find data or articles to support it.

In the field of science, we’re supposed to begin with no preconceived end result planned. We’re to systematically move forward neutrally and unbiased to get to a scientifically supported end result. 

In life we do not begin at zero. We begin way far down the path with firm beliefs and then filter backward. Who cares what the evidence shows? We know we are right in what we believe.

The article focused on how highly politically polarized our country is today. Our political views impact how we view and define fake news as well as how we interpret national events.

I would be remiss to not state that, despite the premise of this column, it is possible for people to change their minds. So don’t give up if you believe you are a “mind changer,” just understand attacking another for his or her beliefs is like the pot calling the kettle black.

My challenge to you today is to recognize how you are programmed and your lack of an open mind. You have within you core positions that are not likely to change regardless of what facts are presented to you.

How you view the world may have nothing to do with facts, only what you have chosen to grab and hold onto in your life.

We do not process data in a vacuum. We have “selective” hearing. We listen to sources that support our beliefs. We hold onto ending positions and then work backward.

And finally, recognize that this column won’t change your mind.

Just a thought …

Rick Kraft, a South Pasadena High School graduate, is a syndicated columnist, motivational speaker, published author and attorney. To submit comments, contributions or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org.

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