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Fake news, alt facts, and the backfire effect: the science of changing someone’s mind - Brian Fitzgerald, Dancing Fox


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Ignite talk - Wednesday 5 pm

Brian Fitzgerald of Dancing Fox shares evidence behind of why just sharing evidence isn't enough to convince people...and how you might go about convincing people in a different way.

Published in: Government & Nonprofit
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Fake news, alt facts, and the backfire effect: the science of changing someone’s mind - Brian Fitzgerald, Dancing Fox

  1. 1. VERSION 8.0
  2. 2. VERSION 8.0 WHAT IS IT? It’s a cognitive quirk that not only rejects facts that contradict our core beliefs, but STRENGTHENS those core beliefs despite the facts.
  3. 3. VERSION 8.0 Example #1 Immunization: Parents reluctant to immunize children against flu were shown conclusive evidence that their concern – that the vaccine could *cause* flu- was false. They accepted the fact. But their willingness to immunize their children DECREASED.
  4. 4. VERSION 8.0 Example #2 Warehouse fire: Subjects are told a story about a warehouse fire. At first, it appears the fire was caused by paint cans in a closet. This fact is later corrected: it was discovered the closet was empty. 50% recall the cause of the fire incorrectly, blaming paint cans. Their minds preferred a complete story filled in with an incorrect fact to an incomplete one.
  5. 5. VERSION 8.0 Example #2 (Continued) A similar group were told that the paint cans were not the cause, but were also told another closet had been found full of oily rags. NONE of them mis-recalled the paint cans. The story was completed by the oily rags. 

  6. 6. VERSION 8.0 WHY? Because what we think of as our reasoning brain is usually more like a politician than a scientist. We embrace facts that back up our opinions, reject facts that might change them. It’s easier to say “that fact is wrong” than “My worldview is incorrect
  7. 7. VERSION 8.0 Because cooperation and tribal identity are built on shared beliefs, and are hard to build. Evolution has made these things resilient. We don’t want to adopt opinions different from our tribe. WHY?
  8. 8. VERSION 8.0 Because our IDENTITY is tied to our deeper beliefs.
 We don’t change who we are lightly. It’s easier to say “that fact is wrong” than “I don’t know who I am anymore.” WHY?
  9. 9. VERSION 8.0 WHY? Climate Deniers aren’t the only ones that do it.
  10. 10. VERSION 8.0 “The facts are so clear, Brexit will clearly not win a majority referendum.”
 ~ “The facts are so clear, Donald Trump can’t possibly win.”
  11. 11. VERSION 8.0 In fact, we ALL do it.
  12. 12. VERSION 8.0 Some of our organisations, and some of us reading this presentation right now, have an “irrational emotional attachment to rationality.” 
 We ignore the facts of persuasion science that tell us that facts don’t win, and keep running fact- based campaigns.
  13. 13. VERSION 8.0 In fact, this presentation is a fact-based effort to try to persuade you.
  14. 14. VERSION 8.0 I’m doomed.
  15. 15. VERSION 8.0 Ways to Avoid the Backfire Effect
  16. 16. VERSION 8.0 Abandon the “Information deficit model” ✴ Presenting the facts in a new report is not going to win your campaign on its own
  17. 17. VERSION 8.0 Focus on the undecideds, not the skeptics
  18. 18. VERSION 8.0 Join with someone who disagrees with you in a joint attempt to solve a mystery
  19. 19. VERSION 8.0 Adjust your framing & vocabulary to avoid triggers* ✴ “Environment” can be a dirty word for conservatives. Looking to stop fracking? Try talking about the “Sanctity of the land.”
  20. 20. VERSION 8.0 Change behaviour to change opinion, not the other way around
  21. 21. VERSION 8.0 Make someone feel GREAT about their other values. Take Identity off the table
  22. 22. VERSION 8.0 Don’t mention the myth you’re trying to debunk, only the fact you’re trying to plant
  23. 23. VERSION 8.0 Don’t overkill. If one fact is enough, two might completely undermine your case ✴ I’m really sorry I didn’t make it to your party. I was sick. And I had a flat tire.
  24. 24. VERSION 8.0 Replace the table leg you are taking away ✴ If you’re going to say that X is not the cause of Y, you need something to replace X, or the brain’s distaste for an incomplete story will put X right back.
  25. 25. VERSION 8.0 Don’t use fact at all. Avoid talking to the head. Talk to the heart. Trigger someone’s values with a STORY
  26. 26. VERSION 8.0 The best persuasive device is a personal story, told face to face, ideally by someone like you – who used to share your opinion – but who changed their mind.
  27. 27. VERSION 8.0 Sources & More: • The You Are Not So Smart Podcast • The Righteous Mind: Jonathan Haidt • The Debunking Handbook: J. Cook, S. Lewandowsky • Don’t Think of an Elephant! George Lakoff • The Political Brain: Drew Westen • Why Facts don’t Change our Minds: Elizabeth Kolbert • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari • George Marshall: Don’t Even Think About It
  28. 28. Tommy Crawford @TheEcoWarrior Brian Fitzgerald @Brianfit Dancing Fox Specialists in Beautiful mischief