Seven Ways to Effect Change

It’s very difficult to change the minds of adults on any issue of significance, says author and Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner. But the highest probability of a lasting change of opinion comes when the first six "levers" below are in concert, and the seventh factor, resistances, is low.

1. Reason The rational approach, involving identifying relevant factors and weighing them. This lever is especially important among those who deem themselves to be educated.

2. Research Complementing the use of rational argument is the collection of data, which is used to test trends or assertions.

3. Resonance Whereas reason and research appeal to the cognitive mind, resonance refers to emotions. An opinion or idea resonates when it just "feels right" to a person.

4. Representational redescriptions The repetition of a point of view in many different forms?linguistic, numerical or graphic?to reinforce the message is one of the most important levers for changing people’s minds, Gardner says.

5. Resources and rewards Money and other resources can be applied directly (as a bonus, for example) or indirectly (as a donation to a charity as long as the philanthropist’s wishes are adopted). Unless resources and rewards work together with other mind-changing levers, however, a new course of thought is unlikely to last when the money runs out.

6. Real-world events The use of news stories and events to bolster one’s perspective can be effective in changing minds. Some real-world events, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, can affect so many people so deeply that they cause a mass change of mind.

7. Resistances Barriers to changing one’s mind are created by age (as people get older, their neural pathways are less susceptible to alteration), the emotion that a topic creates and the public stand one has previously taken on a topic.

-E.P.

Related:

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

Discover what your peers are reading. Sign up for our FREE email newsletters today!