1. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    A "Convincing Methodology" is a methodology used to convince someone of something. Debunkers are often faced with the problem of people who reject evidence and reasoning in favor of their own deeply held belief - the problem is how do you convince them of the actual facts of the matter.

    Various people over the years have given short methodologies in list format for how they think it's best to go about this. This thread is to gather those that are relevant, and discuss them. Hopefully in the process of this overview, we might learn something about what works, and what does not.

    This was prompted by an article by Michael Shermer, in which he has his own list:
    I think this kind of boils down to "be polite, and try to work from common ground". I'm not entirely sure what he means by #6 - but perhaps it's to let people know that it's actually okay to be wrong about one little thing. Just because contrails persist it does not mean that chemtrails are not real. Often people push back against even the slightest tiny correction. A key thing is getting them to accept that one thing is wrong - a "wedge debunking", for want of a better term.
  2. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Another list from a perhaps surprising source, new age guru Deepak Chopra:

    Note that 2,3 & 4 are all about having common ground with the person. You have to know what and how they think and feel about something in order to communicate effectively.

    #5 (Make the other person feel right. Don't make them feel wrong.) Is interesting, as it relates to the backfire effect that happens when you show someone they are wrong about something. The Debunking Handbook says this creates a void in their thinking, and if you don't fill it with the actual explanation, then they will feel bad, and be susceptible to the bunk returning

    Here's their visual version of #5
  3. Hama Neggs

    Hama Neggs Senior Member

    I think a lot of the difficulty lies in the fact that what, for example, chemtrail proponents believe is so dismally wrong in so many ways, it would make them feel stupid to accept the real facts.
  4. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I think being radically wrong makes them resistant to accepting facts. But that's something we have to take into account, and is touched on by the various lists. ("make the other person feel right", "changing facts" is not a bad thing, "acknowledge emotion".
  5. Hama Neggs

    Hama Neggs Senior Member

    That bit is something I didn't understand. How do you make them feel right by telling them where they are wrong?
  6. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    You tell them something new which is right, so while they recognize they were wrong in the past, they can (justifiably) feel smart about knowing something new.

    It's not always easy.
  7. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    I've derived the following list from a scientific study of what works in changing people's minds in the sub-Reddit ChangeMyView. Now this is obviously biased towards more open minded people but has some interesting results.

    Article: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...to-change-someones-mind-according-to-science/
    Paper: https://arxiv.org/pdf/1602.01103v1.pdf

    1. If you can't convince someone of a point in four replies or less, then you probably won't. Move on.
    2. Use different language to the person, new terminology helps.
    3. Use longer replies (although they don't say what is TOO long)
    4. Use specific examples, with definite articles ("the" rather than "a")
    5. Include supporting links and references
    6. "Hedge" your argument, don't be absolute, leave room for doubt.
    7. Use "I", not "we" in expressing opinions
    8. Focus on their use of calm positive language to identify areas where they are more open to change

    Now this is a list I just wrote based on the article, so I'd recommend reading it, as I might have inadvertently over-paraphrased. The article itself goes into more detail.

    One thing I was not sure how to listify was the observation that the first person to respond was more likely to be persuasive than later responders. This suggests a strategy of "make the first response a good one". Often in forums (here included) several people pile in with a variety of points. Unfortunately the first response is often not the best, and so the "first response effect" is wasted. The lesson might be to hold off on responding unless someone else already has, or you've got a very good point to make.
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  8. Rory

    Rory Senior Member

    In my most recent interactions with flat earthers a lot of it was about distant views of city skylines, and the math involved in that. Almost all of them were using the wrong equation. What I realised was that, internally, I wasn't so much interested in persuading them the earth wasn't flat as I was in showing them the right equation, and how to use it.

    It seemed helpful and enjoyable to go that way, and we made progress. It wasn't about changing worldviews or belief systems, it was simply about math and very verifiable facts.

    Having said that, though - and this relates to another thread discussing how best to deal with incorrect/illogical beliefs - I think when I look back at my own life, rather than the common ground-seeking, non-oppositional approach, it's more often been ridicule and a distinct lack of empathy that has helped see things better. In those cases, however, the other person is rarely around to see it.
  9. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    what Deepak is saying, imo, is to say things like "I know. it's counterintuitive, so yea i thought that at first too until i did the math".

    "i know, it doesnt really make any sense until you read the manual and see that blah blah blah"

    "Understanding the physics behind contrail formation is hard, it took me a long time to figure it out too"
  10. qed

    qed Senior Member

    Of course, Deepak is outlining techniques to change someone's mind FULLSTOP. That is, persuade someone of your position even if your position is false.