Once upon a time there was a beautiful Princess who ruled in the land of Make Believe. She was known as the ‘Princess of Facts’.
How we perceive ‘facts’ today.
Once upon a time the basing of an argument on facts was considered the best way to command respect in debates and to win over opponents.
However, the latest research suggests that in today’s online environment people are deeply divided by political divisions, social media tensions and the angry Woke Brigade. In many peoples minds the truth of so-called ‘facts‘ is now less of a certainty than it once was.
In an article published by PNAS it says that these divisions have been caused by a deluge of misinformation and fake news which is now found online.
The research suggests that because of the ambiguity in how we now perceive ‘facts’, using them in support of any moral or political argument is no longer the surefire strategy it once was – despite what intuition or logic might suggest.
Instead, if you really want to stand a chance of changing somebody’s mind on a serious topic, there’s something else you should be explaining to them – your own personal experiences.
Social psychologist, Emily Kubin from the University of Koblenz-Landau in Germany, explains:
“The problem is that facts – at least today – are themselves subject to doubt, especially when they conflict with our political beliefs. Political opponents respect moral beliefs more when they are supported by personal experiences.
Because personal experiences are seen as truer than facts, they furnish the appearance of rationality in opponents, which in turn increases respect.
We suggest that this effect is because personal experiences are unimpugnable – first-hand suffering may be relatively immune to doubt. What people need to do is have conversations that expose their vulnerability.
What people need to do is have conversations that expose their vulnerability.“
While that may seem like a oxymoron – perceived rationality and the gaining of respect in a debate can be achieved by the sharing personal experiences – because it’s more likely to appear true to the person you’re debating?
Why are stories more effective than facts?
So, why are personal stories more effective in a debate than the established facts? It seems researchers now think the answer may be the fact that our minds are more open to the processing of personal narratives. Therefore people can be persuaded more easily with stories.
Let’s face it, with today’s censorship driven media, the stated ‘facts’ are now subject to considerable doubt and scepticism.
However, this isn’t to say that facts are entirely useless. Researchers have acknowledged that the most productive conversations between people with opposing viewpoints often involve a combination of both personal experiences and facts.
In fact, (<– scuze the pun) some researchers say that this is not an either/or situation. Very often more than one tactic is required to change people’s minds and gain respect in a debate.
A senior researcher and social psychologist at the University of North Carolina, Kurt Gray said:
“What you have to do is basically invite someone to see you as a rational, feeling human being.
This provides a straightforward pathway for increasing moral understanding and decreasing political intolerance.
What works is showing someone you’re concerned about your future, your family’s future, and the future of the nation.
Our hope is that people can take the results and hopefully have more respectful conversations in an era of extreme polarisation.”
There is no doubt that in these challenging times we all need to think about how we do and don’t speak in debates with others.
Talking of No Doubt……
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Author: Michael W