"How Minds Change" by David McRaney

Review by Borodutch

Why don't people ever change their minds? David describes the precise reasons in this book. Additionally, the author explains how to change other people's minds. Unfortunately, the process is playing on the irrational rather than rational part of the brain.

  • People never change their minds when you give them arguments or data.
  • Proof against people's opinions makes them hold those opinions even stronger.
  • People are great at maintaining cognitive dissonance and rationalizing it.
  • When people change their minds, they not only don't notice it but believe they have always thought this new way.
  • People form and change their opinions with their social groups. Outsiders are rarely able to change their minds.

Now, to change someone's opinion, one has to ensure that the tipping point of the evidence (both factual and social) is bypassed in terms of how much evidence there is for and against the argument. People change their minds if there is too much proof that the Earth isn't flat. Or if an overwhelming amount of the people from their social circle change their mind — that works, too.

If you don't have time or opportunity to reach the evidence and social tipping points, you can try to make people question their beliefs through a series of questions about their experiences. Again, you don't give people data; you ask them non-leading questions. The change should come from within; the doubt should be building up inside the person's mind — whether through rational self-analysis or social pressure.

Read this book if you ever feel you can't change someone's mind. You actually can't change their minds — the only way to achieve the results is to navigate themselves towards changing their minds. But why did I like this book so much?

It changed my mind on a variety of topics. Firstly, it reassured my belief that changing people's opinions with data is virtually impossible. Secondly, it made me re-evaluate my position on alien life. I asked myself if there were any conspiracy theories I believed in. And, oh god, the aliens fit the profile perfectly. I'm still a believer, but instead of having a 73% conviction there is alien life, I now am at 41% probability — I cannot shake off tens of thousands of reports, Occam's Razor, and the vastness of space, which all support that we've been visited.

I'm not yet sure what the best books I've read in 2023 will be, but "How Minds Change" is definitely in the top 10.