Given the power of our prior beliefs to skew how we respond to new information, one thing is becoming clear: If you want someone to accept new evidence, make sure to present it to them in a context that doesn’t trigger a defensive, emotional reaction.
This quote, from Chris Mooney’s excellent piece on the phenomenon of motivated reasoning, comes near its end. Here he gives possible ammunition to those who would try to win over another whose worldview triumphs over inconvenient scientific fact — at least in the context of the current debate.
Mooney closes with the suggestion we reserve those damning facts that brought us to our own belief on the matter, and instead “lead with the values” and appeal to the other’s lifelong experience of constructing beliefs. At least be respectful of it.
New facts, new studies, new data won’t instantly sway someone entrenched and invested in their own way of thinking. Someone with a litany of anecdotal evidence and worn intellectual cowpaths.
I deal with this very issue in my hierarchical corporate environment. I am exceedingly fortunate to be given the freedom of movement and political cover to explore the potentials in new tools and processes. I work diligently to find allies at my own level of operating.
But appealing to the management layers — even those who’ve provided me this very breathing room — is a challenge. Often it’s a matter of delivering conspicuously on the task assigned (“Give me a place to store documents that everyone can access.”), then devoting nights and weekends to the innovative, the forward-thinking, the ‘solution qui anticipe’ (“Tought about a wiki instead?”).
It’s a thin line to walk.