Why facts don't change our minds

Jan 12 2022

James Clear writing about Why facts don't change our minds:

  • Human beings need to have accurate models of reality to survive. It is useful to see the world through truthful beliefs, so we can make accurate predictions. Hence, it would make sense to assume it's in our advantage to always look for the most accurate information.
  • But there's a tradeoff: humans also need to belong in order to survive.
  • Belonging depends on sharing beliefs with others: expressing similar beliefs with the group you're trying to join is an important evolutionary incentive.
  • Evolution doesn't care about why a beliefs is useful to you: it could be useful because it helps you survive a tiger attack, or because it helps others love and protect you. Therefore, our beliefs will always be a mix of truthful and untruthful ones.

We don't always believe things because they are correct. Sometimes we believe things because they make us look good to the people we care about.

Changing minds means changing friendships

  • Changing someone's beliefs is also changing the community they belong to.
  • In trying to change someone's mind, we also need to give them some safe place to belong. Otherwise, changing a belief can be seen as dangerous, since it could cause being cut off by your group.
  • In this sense, proximity with people may be the best way to convince them of something. Inviting them in, not separating them out.

Spectrum of beliefs

  • We're more likely to have our minds changed by someone who agrees with 99% of the stuff we believe. Someone sitting right next to us on the spectrum.
  • Any idea that is sufficiently different from your current worldview will feel threatening.

Additional reading: Keeping your beliefs flexible, where Adam Grant gives tips to challenge our own beliefs and remain open to other people's ideas.

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