Review: David McRaney – How Minds Change (S)

How Minds Change
Making People Listen in an Argumentative World
David McRaney

“Genes create brains, brains create beliefs, beliefs create attitudes, attitudes create group-identities, group identities create norms, norms create values, and values create cultures. The most effective persuasion techniques work backwards. Ideas sweep across cultures in waves, beginning with early adopters who reduce uncertainty for the rest of the population. It’s rarely because the innovation is amazing in and of itself, but because early adopters signal to the group that it’s safe to think again. This book explains how minds change – and how to change them – not over hundreds of years, but in less than a generation, in less than a decade, or sometimes in a single conversation.”

The book I reviewed is the new version that includes references to COVID-19 and the thinking of some people around that (so this cover isn’t quite right).

This book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. It started out with a very long introduction with the author asking the question: “How do minds change?” Then, I realised that the book was just going to be that. For most of it, the reader was just following along with the author’s journey of asking how minds change. The problem with this was that there were never exactly any specific answers.

There is a bit of what I would call WHY minds change, in examples that it has happened to some people. There wasn’t anything specific however such as helpful sentence starters or persuasion techniques or what actually happened. It just said that the person’s values and beliefs had changed… but not how that happened. I also expected it to be a little more scientifically proven. There was a small section about getting one of the techniques scientifically proven but it was a lot of his journey on doing so and not results or explanations.

There is a step by step method on street epistemology towards the end. This is a particular method and for a particular reason. It’s specific and something that could be used in everyday persuasion conversations. Some parts of it are more basic techniques as well which I have heard of before, but the author didn’t go into any details. The author also said at some point that when someone changes their mind, then the effects tend to last. I don’t see how this could happen though and the person’s mind stays “flipped”. Really how long do the effects last for? Especially when you see a lot of controversial topics and a lot of people changing their mind. Or is everyone always being “flipped” one way and then back now?

There were definitely some parts where I was interested in the little sub story, but it really took a while to get into and wasn’t as detailed and informative as I was expecting. It just seemed to be lacking so overall I give it 3 stars. I recommend Never Split the Difference instead, as it has a lot more handy tips and tricks. I do want to read more about cults now! So I’ll read Do As I Say next.

Oneworld | 21 June 2022 | AU$29.99 | paperback

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