August 25, 2015
Nothing is harder to change than a made-up mind. We're hard-wired to protect our pre-existing attitudes and beliefs by ignoring data that contradict them and paying more attention to those that agree. We like people of like mind and, by and large, that's who we hang out with, online and in the real world. We wear our opinions like a badge.
In fact, strong opinions carry strong feelings. Back in the 1920s, columnist Walter Lippmann observed “Opinions are not in continual and pungent contact with the facts they profess to treat. But the feelings attached to those opinions can be even more intense than the original ideas that provoked them.” Attack my opinion about something like the dangers of childhood vaccination and you're attacking me. Not to mention my kids.
Now it turns out those feelings may be the trap door through which opinions can be affected. A recent study shows it's more effective to appeal to oponents of childhood vaccination through their emotions, by showing them photos of children sick with measles, mumps or meningistis. A New York Times writer calls this "a reminder that subjective feelings are still trusted over scientific expertise."
Come to think of it, politicians seem to have tumbled to this many elections ago, as demonstrated by the current leader in the GOP primaries. Maybe it's time for companies to pay more attention to it.