The trick to persuading people you’re right, according to experimental psychology

Hugo Mercier in Quartz:

Man-thinkingIt’s an old trope that humans don’t like change—especially when it comes to their opinions. Ancient Greek philosophers complained about the masses refusing to heed their advice. Scholars spearheading the scientific revolution in the 17th century bemoaned their predecessors’ stubbornness. And today, everybody complains about their brother-in-law who won’t admit his political opinions are deeply misinformed.

Some findings in experimental psychology bolster this view of humans being pigheaded. In countless studies, psychologists have recorded people’s opinions on subjects from offal-eating to vaccination, exposed them to a message that critiqued their opinion, and then observed changes in their opinion. Some messages proved to be persuasive and others barely had an effect—but most surprisingly, some strong arguments backfired, with people moving their opinion away from the view advocated, rather than toward it.

This is a scary prospect. If being exposed to divergent political views ends up reinforcing entrenched opinions rather than altering them, there will be no end to the current increase in political polarization.

More here.