How often do we change our minds?

Posted Feb 13, 2016 by Tim Sandle
A subreddit, debating how and when people change their minds, has inspired a scientific study into how people's minds are changed.
A man thinking
A man thinking
Jacob Botter
How and when do people change their minds? This was a recent debate on Reddit and, in turn, this led to a small study being set-up as a subreddit (Reddit is an on-line bulletin system where users submit content, with the leading topic being a direct link to content, and for this a discussion, may follow; subreddits are areas of similar content, like "biology news".)
Research generally indicates that people are stubborn. Ad campaigns sometimes work, but this is a slow process and mainly orientated at people changing brands; as for facts, these sometimes get in the way of strongly held views.
In one corner of the Internet, however, minds are continually changed. This is with a subreddit called "ChangeMyView." The idea is a user can post a strongly held opinion and ask other users to attempt to change the original poster's viewpoint.
According to Tanya Basu it actually seems to be working. Writing for the website Science for Us, she notes the subreddit acts as "ultimate laboratory to test a question that’s pretty near impossible to test in real life: What makes people change their minds?"
In turn, this has led Cornell University to analyze what is happening within the subreddit. The analysis has been published as a white paper titled "Winning Arguments: Interaction Dynamics and Persuasion Strategies in Good-faith Online Discussions." The analysis was based on 18,000 threads from the subreddit over two and a half years.
The researcher have found trying to win people over with empty, angry, fighting words fails. Instead, changing opinion requires, as the Washington Post summarizes:
Being popular / popular opinion, and having several people to support your view.
Winning over people quickly. The longer a discussion goes on for, the less likely it is that minds will be changed. Similarly, responding quickly to comments helps. However, posting too many messages can lead to people ignoring you.
Longer and more developed thoughts, and typing a few paragraphs, is more likely to change views that the a few sentences or a couple of words expressing a strong emotion.
Hedging your argument, appearing at first to be a little uncertain and then coming down on one side carries more people.
Have evidence and links to external sources.
Bold, Italics and bullet points make an argument more effective.
Do not correct a person's grammar or spelling: this alienates them from seeing your point-of-view.
Some of these ideas might be useful for the next discussion on Digital Journal, especially with the more contested topics.