Communication Breakdown

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Orca
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Communication Breakdown

Post by Orca » Tue Jul 20, 2021 6:52 pm

“You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into.” – Jonathan Swift (maybe, there are a lot of variations on this quote).

Do you think this sentiment is true? Are people who take irrational positions impossible to reach?

How often do you spend effort to change someone’s mind when he/she is clearly misinformed? If you do, how do you “pick your battles?” I am not a particularly confrontational person, so when it comes to “ghosts” or “Bigfoot” or “magic healing crystals” or other relatively innocuous issues I rarely get involved, unless the people happen to be reasonable and willing to have a constructive conversation.

However, there are serious ramifications when it comes to irrational thought regarding COVID and vaccines, masks, etc. The pandemic is not over; it drags on like smoldering ashes after a forest fire just waiting to reignite. Misinformation is costing lives, causing human suffering, damaging economies across the globe, and ultimately preventing us from going back to something resembling life before the pandemic.

So I feel that informed, concerned folks should be trying to help, but what is the best way to go about it? How do you change someone’s mind whose misinformation is deeply rooted, perhaps tied to his/her politics and self-identity?

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bystander
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Re: Communication Breakdown

Post by bystander » Tue Jul 20, 2021 7:09 pm

We’re Losing the Vaccine Race
Neurologica Blog | Steven Novella | 2021 July 20
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
— Garrison Keillor

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Chris Peterson
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Re: Communication Breakdown

Post by Chris Peterson » Tue Jul 20, 2021 7:29 pm

Orca wrote:
Tue Jul 20, 2021 6:52 pm
“You cannot reason someone out of something he or she was not reasoned into.” – Jonathan Swift (maybe, there are a lot of variations on this quote).

Do you think this sentiment is true? Are people who take irrational positions impossible to reach?

How often do you spend effort to change someone’s mind when he/she is clearly misinformed? If you do, how do you “pick your battles?” I am not a particularly confrontational person, so when it comes to “ghosts” or “Bigfoot” or “magic healing crystals” or other relatively innocuous issues I rarely get involved, unless the people happen to be reasonable and willing to have a constructive conversation.

However, there are serious ramifications when it comes to irrational thought regarding COVID and vaccines, masks, etc. The pandemic is not over; it drags on like smoldering ashes after a forest fire just waiting to reignite. Misinformation is costing lives, causing human suffering, damaging economies across the globe, and ultimately preventing us from going back to something resembling life before the pandemic.

So I feel that informed, concerned folks should be trying to help, but what is the best way to go about it? How do you change someone’s mind whose misinformation is deeply rooted, perhaps tied to his/her politics and self-identity?
There are techniques that can help us change the minds of people whose fundamental epistemology is based on faith, not reason. But it's a real challenge. There's an inherent paradox involved in attempting to use reason to teach somebody how to reason. I find the best strategy is to not tell them they're wrong, but to ask them questions about contradictions and internal inconsistencies, and then leave it there. After that, they need to let that roll around in their head. And sometimes that will start changing minds.
Chris

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Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

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Orca
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Re: Communication Breakdown

Post by Orca » Thu Jul 22, 2021 6:27 pm

Chris, I agree – I don’t think it is very effective to bombard folks with facts, or to contradict them directly. Scare tactics don’t generally work either. For example, 'scare ‘em straight' campaigns against drugs and alcohol use are not particularly effective from a public health perspective, especially with the youth.

Again, it's easier said than done - certainly when it comes to pressing health concerns. To calmly smile and ask things like “why do you suppose that’s true?” while in your head you are thinking “…just…get vaccinated…you…insane…person!” However, openly condescending someone will almost certainly push them to 'dig in and double down.'

Bystander – interesting that you reference Steve Novella’s blog. They regularly talk about this very topic (how to deal with misinformed people/conspiracy thinkers/etc. – on his podcast, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe.