I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Changing Minds

People do change their minds occasionally. About what to wear - or where to holiday. Changing one's mind seems to be a rarer thing on issues where people are heavily invested emotionally. Think abortion.... Or climate change.Mother Jones has an interesting article on this at


The writer of the article describes how an emotional investment can skew our reasoning by discussing relationships. Ze says

We all understand these mechanisms when it comes to interpersonal relationships. If I don't want to believe that my spouse is being unfaithful, or that my child is a bully, I can go to great lengths to explain away behavior that seems obvious to everybody else—everybody who isn't too emotionally invested to accept it, anyway.
Ze goes on to demonstrate, that, since this emotional skewing happens to everyone,  it is virtually useless to argue with people over the facts .

Take, for instance, the question of whether Saddam Hussein possessed hidden weapons of mass destruction just before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. When political scientists Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler showed subjects fake newspaper articles (PDF) in which this was first suggested (in a 2004 quote from President Bush) and then refuted (with the findings of the Bush-commissioned Iraq Survey Group report, which found no evidence of active WMD programs in pre-invasion Iraq), they found that conservatives were more likely than before to believe the claim.

Uh huh.  The stronger the evidence against their belifes, the more the subjects clung to their beliefs.  Gad -  what's a poor climate change or environmental activist to do in that case ? Arguing doesn't change anyone's mind. Presenting  facts entrenches beliefs! Aaagggh! One ray of hope remains:
Conservatives are more likely to embrace climate science if it comes to them via a business or religious leader, who can set the issue in the context of different values than those from which environmentalists or scientists often argue.

So sell climate change adaptation and greenhouse gas emission reduction to deniers on the basis of their values - using someone they already respect as a spokesperson if possible. Couch measures in patriotic language and present said maeasures as business opportunities.

Another ray of hope. sometimes people change their minds on the basis of their experiences. A conservative Christian campaigner against gay amrriage in the US changed his mind and recanted his opposition to gay marriage.
between what I had witnessed on the marriage tour and RJ’s post about marriage equality, I really came to understand that gays and lesbians were just real people who wanted to live real lives and be treated equally as opposed to, for example, wanting to destroy American culture. No, they didn’t want to destroy American culture, they wanted to openly particulate in it. I was well on my way to becoming a supporter of civil marriage equality. My name is Louis J. Marinelli, a conservative-Republican and I now support full civil marriage equality. The constitution calls for nothing less.

The trick is gonna be changing enough folks' minds -  in time.   Tick, tock, tick, tock.......

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