The 2022 Porchlight Marketing and Sales Book of the Year
A brain-bending investigation of why some people never change their minds—and others do in an instant—by the bestselling author of You Are Not So Smart
What made a prominent conspiracy-theorist YouTuber finally see that 9/11 was not a hoax? How do voter opinions shift from neutral to resolute? Can widespread social change only take place when a generation dies out? From one of our greatest thinkers on reasoning, HOW MINDS CHANGE is a book about the science, and the experience, of transformation.
When self-delusion expert and psychology nerd David McRaney began a book about how to change someone’s mind in one conversation, he never expected to change his own. But then a diehard 9/11 Truther’s conversion blew up his theories—inspiring him to ask not just how to persuade, but why we believe, from the eye of the beholder. Delving into the latest research of psychologists and neuroscientists, HOW MINDS CHANGE explores the limits of reasoning, the power of groupthink, and the effects of deep canvassing. Told with McRaney’s trademark sense of humor, compassion, and scientific curiosity, it’s an eye-opening journey among cult members, conspiracy theorists, and political activists, from Westboro Baptist Church picketers to LGBTQ campaigners in California—that ultimately challenges us to question our own motives and beliefs. In an age of dangerous conspiratorial thinking, can we rise to the occasion with empathy?
An expansive, big-hearted journalistic narrative, HOW MINDS CHANGE reaches surprising and thought-provoking conclusions, to demonstrate the rare but transformative circumstances under which minds can change.
"What does the phrase change your mind' even mean?" asks journalist McRaney (You Are Not So Smart) in this fascinating take. To investigate how people's opinions can be changed, he speaks with a former "9/11 truther" who was a "leader in the... community" before having a change of heart; interviews psychologists who suggest that when trying to persuade someone, a "message can't seem threatening to a person's group identity, or the central route will remain barricaded"; and spends time with gay rights activists who use a method called "deep canvassing," which involves sharing one's own story and "non-judgemental listening" to win people over, because "the only way they are going to change their mind," the rationale goes, "is by changing their own mind." The author's approach to persuasion calls for compassion: "When interacting with someone who is vaccine-hesitant, you'll get much further if you frame it as respectful collaboration toward a shared goal, based on mutual fears and anxieties, and demonstrate you are open to their perspective and input." McRaney makes a convincing case that "we must avoid debate and start having conversations" and backs it up with what science has to say about "replac old ignorance with new wisdom." The result is an eye-opening survey filled with heart.