Changing Minds

Howard Gardner is one of the most influential researchers of the 20th century. He invented the concept of multiple intelligences and published many books on intelligence and geniuses, from Mozart to Einstein.

 In “Changing Minds” he examines the process of social conviction and change. In most parts of the books, he relays the experiences of people who are able to change people’s minds as leaders.
He presents seven “levers” for changing minds and discusses their application at various levels of mind change. The first one is reason. Reasoning is one of the most important persuaders. By reasoning, one can classify things to systematically analyze them or deploy analogies to develop models.
The second lever is research. One of the best mind changers is data. By using relevant data, it is easy to attract the attention of people.
The third lever is resonance. There are some messages or theories that resonate with people. If people can see the theory or the message in their own life, the message becomes significant.
The fourth lever is representational re-description. Authors or politicians may re-describe what is happening in a completely new way and people can understand and act on this re-description.
The fifth lever is resources and rewards. Sometimes resources can change people’s minds. If you provide busses, people will use busses to get somewhere else. Resources can move people in a certain way. Of course, rewards can also change people’s minds. To receive a reward people can change their behavior and the mindset.
The sixth lever is real world events. Some leaders became leaders following real world events. For example the Falkland Islands crisis helped Margaret Thatcher convince British society of her determination.
The seventh lever is the last lever and it is “resistance.” Resistance is slowing down change. People do not want to change easily. However, any resistance can help the change movement because it crystallizes an idea. The opponents of an idea strengthen the idea without being aware of it.
Gardner suggests the following as the content of the mind: ideas, concepts, stories, theories and skills. Four of these aspects are useful in changing minds. When we denote all four-legged furry household pets that bark as dogs, we are revealing our concept of canines. People can change minds by replacing an old concept with a new one.
Stories are narratives that describe events that unfold over time. Stories consist of a main character, ongoing activities geared toward a goal, a crisis and a resolution, or at least an attempt at resolution. Most political leaders or business leaders have stories; their lives embody the stories. Their stories carry a change message, and their lives support this message as evidence. A commander who wants his soldiers to be brave, fights in the front line and in so doing supports his message.
Theories are relatively formal explanations of processes in the world. A theory takes the form “X has occurred because of A, B, C.” From an early age, we develop theories about the world. A scientist presents a new theory by altering an old one. Scientists, instead of telling stories, explain a theory. Albert Einstein, for instance, was not a storyteller; he was a theorist.
Skills consist of procedures that individuals know how to carry out whether or not they choose to — or even can — put them into words. Skills will range from the mundane – like catching a ball — to the complex — playing a Bach sonata on the violin or solving mathematical equations. Jim Hines was the first man to break the 10-second barrier in the 10 meter, recording the first sub-10-second electronically timed run to win the 100-meter race at the 1968 Olympics. When Hines broke the record, he changed our understanding of the limits of human body.
In his book, Gardner gives detailed mind changing stories of leaders like Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton. Not only success stories, but also stories of disappointment are mentioned in the book.
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