Can you change people’s minds with your arguments?

Another quick pass on the question of relaxing while the internet chatters about you.

There seems to be an idealistic argument here – and a more realistic one. On the one side, there are a couple of very high-minded quotes to consider:

“ can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into” (source unknown).


“…when the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do?” (J.M. Keynes)

On the other hand, there’s The Backfire Effect [full paper – pdf]. This is where – when your deepest convictions are challenged by contradictory evidence – they actually get stronger and not weaker.Let me repeat that in plainer English: Give someone with strong views some evidence that they are wrong and it will only strengthen their view that they are right.

So what can we conclude from this? The operative words here, for me are ‘deepest convictions’ and ‘strong views’. If you write with a good deal of certainty and post your work in places where people who have deep convictions hang out online, you will get into a long pointless argument.

As I outlined in this post, it’s best to avoid authoritative predictions and weighty assertions. Having a good crowd of followers on Facebook will get your comments a friendlier and more useful response than a high-volume blog sometimes.

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