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How to open a closed mind

Vanessa King of Action for Happiness, author of 10 Keys To Happier Living, recommends The Influential Mind by Tali Sharot

How receptive are you to changing your views? You may be surprised to learn that your brain has evolved in ways that mean you are less likely to change your opinion than your might think. Neuroscientist Tali Sharot explores how presenting facts and figures is generally unsuccessful in changing someone’s views. Studies show that data-based approaches – trying to change a person’s opinion to your own – can have the opposite effect, with each person becoming more entrenched in their existing view. Why? One of our strongest inbuilt biases is confirmation bias. We seek out and rate more highly data that supports our beliefs, and ignore information that doesn’t. In the words of Harper Lee, says Sharot, ‘people generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for’. Data can be persuasive, but only if we don’t already hold a belief on a topic. To come to agreement when we already have an opinion on a subject, we need to explore our common desires and build from there.

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