Lion of the Blogosphere

How to convince people of the truth

Would you like to convince people of the truth of some unpopular belief? (Not that the Lion of the Blogosphere believes anything unpopular, this is purely hypothetical.) Trying to use logic to convince people of your truth will not work, because people don’t think logically, they think emotionally. People will believe or do anything as long as other people like themselves believe it or do it.

In a recent Wall Street Journal column we discover:

In a study conducted with the U.K.’s tax-collecting service, Martin saw an increase in the return rate after enclosing messages such as, “nine out of ten people in Britain pay their tax on time,” on tax forms. The return rate increased even more when the information was more specific, referring to the number of people who filed tax returns on time within their town or postal code.

So suppose you write in a blog comment that rosé is the superior wine (which is a pretty unpopular belief). When someone then disagrees, you might try to respond with facts and reasoning:

There was an understanding, as early as the time of the Ancient Greeks and Roman winemakers, that harder pressing and lettings the juice “sit” for a period with the skins would make darker, more heartier wines but the resulting wines were often considered too harsh and less desirable.

But no one is going to pay attention, because they know that rosé is only consumed by the kind of people who live in Staten Island.

It would be much better to post another comment with a sock puppet who writes :

I agree with you, and in fact a lot of the people here in the Hamptons secretly drink rosé wine when no one is looking because it tastes so much better.

This creates powerfully convincing social proof that trumps calls to reason or facts.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

December 28, 2012 at 7:00 am

Posted in Psychology

21 Responses

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  1. John Derbyshire has expressed the view that competition from China in the genomic sciences will force America to value truth over democratically-expressed wants. It’s probably the only thing that will, and even that will face a lot of resistance, from people who claim that we should reject it for our democratic and pro-social-mobility traditions, until the economic consequences become unignorable.

    WMarkW

    December 28, 2012 at 11:02 am

  2. Regarding the sentiment posted at another, wholly unrelated, blog that China may adapt to Western standards vis a vis human equality. I don’t think this is the case. Assuming 1. that nothing ridiculous happens and 2. that China can keep it’s shit together for the next decade or so, I expect they will be, solidly, -the- world power. And then, why would they care about “looking parochial” to western elites, who are rapidly being exposed as bush-league.

    anonymous

    December 28, 2012 at 11:19 am

    • It will really be interesting to see whether China can keep its act together as its educated classes collapse due to low birth rates among the educated.

      not too late

      December 28, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    • As China will undoubtedly become the new apex superpower before 2030, and as China is not a universal democracy but an autocracy with limited democratic participation, it is indeed of paramount importance to know what the attitude of the Chinese elites toward egalitarianism will be, as this attitude will really determine the course of the XXIst century and beyond.

      My educated answer is inexistent, since I don’t know Chinese society and the putonghua enough.

      Can someone in the room help us?

      My estimation is that even though the current Chinese ruling families do not seem particularly hell bent on attacking Western egalitarian philosophies, and do not seem to really wish preserving Han genetic “purity” in their country, their laissez-faire on racial and scientific issues, coupled to a relatively liberal morality on issues of heredity thanks to the absence of Christian influence, will pave the way for a “heretic” China in the distant future.

      Alex

      December 28, 2012 at 12:42 pm

      • An article in the Oct. 22, 2012 New Yorker reports on the massive corruption of the rulers of the PRC. Apparently their culture lacks the grounds for public and social solidarity. Nothing in their culture from which it might develop, it would seem. Their best minds emigrate. And the US is a great beneficiary of this.

        Mike Eisenstadt

        December 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      • China’s problem is that it’s surrounded by strong nations like Japan and India that view it as a military threat. Being pro-HBD isn’t a significant advantage for China because their neighbors also have no faith in PC and would be more than willing to fight dirty in any military conflict. If China can’t project power outside its borders then it won’t be more than a regional superpower.

        Of course, China could try to break out of “encriclement” a la Wilhelmine Germany, but a WW3 fought in Asia would just pave the way for another American (or European) Century.

        The Undiscovered Jew

        December 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

  3. This is good advice. Colloquially, the saying goes, “you can’t reason somebody out of an opinion they didn’t reason themselves into.”

    As pertains to gun rights, I think the interactive map that shows registered gun permits could be spun to show the reality that rich, successful people are more likely own guns. As guns are expensive and permits take a certain minimum of conscientiousness and future-time orientation, they will no doubt correlate with income and IQ, QED.

    NewBlogNewName

    December 28, 2012 at 12:26 pm

  4. Well, Jonathan Haidt and Geoffrey Miller have come out in favour since Pinker. Since it is true, there will always be elites who buck the party line . . . and get away with it. That keeps it alive.

    One thing though, whether this is ever accepted depends entirely on the people at the top of the scientific profession. If they flip, politicians and the media won’t be able to stop it, but this also means that common people promoting it right now don’t matter either.

    Thursday

    December 28, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    • The reason that this is hopeless except through conversion of elite scientists is that only they possibly could be converted by logic and evidence. Then their immense prestige could impose itself on an unwilling media and political class and then down to the general population.

      Thursday

      December 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm

    • I’ve heard you mention this a few times over the years. Where has Jonathan Haidt said this?

      Vince, the Lionhearted

      December 28, 2012 at 4:20 pm

  5. I approve of these posts. This very simple idea — truth hasn’t any gravitas on her own — needs to keep being repeated over and over on the anti-conformist blogosphere to avoid poor suckers getting flamed for being a bit too brave and defending very unpopular ideas at family dinners and other social places.

    Vocally defending the “truth” (what a naive concept! there may be such a thing as objective reality, but no such thing as truth, every human makes his own — what do you think “Critique of Pure Reason” is about?) will get you nowhere in society, except toward feelings of depression, anger and powerlessness. Do something more productive and intelligent with the time Nature has allotted to you. Get rich, get a diploma, or become a violent revolutionary if the system really doesn’t suit you. But don’t waste time arguing.

    Alex

    December 28, 2012 at 12:32 pm

  6. People prefer happiness and harmony; the truth is controversial.

    Blog Raju

    December 28, 2012 at 12:41 pm

  7. One method is to convince people they’re part of the right group. My biggest take-away from Decision 2012 was that it’s all identity politics now.

    OT: Al-Jazeera has noticed Greek people returning to farming: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WatDQ2Mxnfw

    aki (@DSGNTD_PLYR)

    December 28, 2012 at 1:22 pm

  8. If you’ve ever met elites from overseas, you’ll see that they think no differently than American and European elites. This makes sense, as they watch American TVs and movies, attend Western universities, and, if they attend universities at home, are taught by professors who studied in the West. Talking to these elites, I’ve noticed that they react just like Americans to a person violating a taboo on race and gender. The only ones who dissent from the feminist line that I’ve met are the Muslims, for obvious reasons.

    Therefore, my inclination is to believe that Chinese elites are simply going to become like elites everywhere else and continue to become more Westernized. The only way the alternative happens is if they consciously decide as a society to be anti-Western. Something like a crisis over Taiwan could lead to that. And even then, the Chinese may adopt a strong form of “anti-racism” as part of being “anti-Western.”

    HAR

    December 28, 2012 at 1:29 pm

  9. “Would you like to convince people of the truth of some unpopular belief?”

    Hey! They support Binders Full of Rose! We’ll show ‘em.

    I think the WSJ article is too credulous of the pop psych approach. For instance:
    ” Martin describes a study in which a group of executives were presented with a proposal for an IT project. Twice as many in the group approved the proposal if the company was predicted to lose $500,000 if the proposal were not accepted, compared to a scenario that predicted that the project would lead to profits of $500,000.”

    I’ve I was pitching a project to my execs and tried to frame $500K contingent profit as averting a $500K loss I would lose financial credibility.

    Competent managers expect all investment projects to be evaluated the same way. Using the marketing tricks used to sell soap powder on a financial audience makes people think something is up.

    Lion of the Turambar

    December 28, 2012 at 3:43 pm

  10. Typing a noted blogger’s name into a random search engine of choice used to give one, for the third or perhaps fourth entry, an angry minority ‘exposing’ this blogger for his trumpeted intent to spread “lies” through sockpuppetry.

    The Chinese, of necessity, must have many thoughts today which are different from prevailing Western norms. I happily note any and all Asian dissidences from common Western practice. On Korean tv, for instance, young women blithely sit with blankets across their laps, even if they’ve just been dancing in the same outfits. As a small child, I was horrified to see women made to sit in church with blankets over their skirts. As an adult, I’m overjoyed. I think it’s a delightful custom, which seems to cause noone embarassment. Long may it continue.

    Scientists alone will not suffice to achieve public recognition for the ideas alluded to. Without a flip in the culture, the most likely default liberal/”right-liberal” response will be some sort of Saletan solution (hopefully not entertained very seriously, or not at least foisted upon their own children). Most liberals think pot, Xanax, Ecstasy aren’t costing them any braincells they couldn’t do without. Doubtless they are no less cavalier (at least in the aggregate, or at a generation’s remove) about their genepool.

    Not to uncritically second the commenter TUJ, but something must be done about the Critical/Cultural/Post-Modernist/Structuralist-“Theory” cabal at the altar of the Cathedral.

    Lucius Somesuch

    December 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm

  11. Poor Staten Island, never to be loved by the lion. Drinking wine is a generous estimate but they sell beer on the ferry. Re China, 40,000,000 unmarriageable males (due to abortions of female infants) could well undo their society as unmarried men are the most likely to engage in crime.

    islandmommy

    December 28, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    • I agree the Chinese would have no moral scruples about genetic engineering babies (as they are already selecting for gender). But the results could be unexpected and disastrous. There is also a very large population of poor people in China who can’t afford even basic health care much less genetic engineering.

      I know there are a lot of smart Chinese people in the west but they don’t seem to be very good at much in their own country. The corruption in China is destructive in many ways.

      melykin

      December 28, 2012 at 7:04 pm

  12. In time, like with Communism, the accumulated failures of an ideology that goes against human nature, and its few and mostly fraudulent successes, will reach a breaking point where professing a faith in this ideology becomes… something one can’t do with a straight face. When that happens, things can change literally overnight.

    Though I’m unfamiliar with blogs that debunk many of our prevailing ideological mainstays, I understand these blogs do play a vital role in chronicling the aforementioned failures.

    PA

    December 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm

  13. unmarried men are the most likely to engage in crime.

    Uh, well sorta, but isn’t that more because criminals are less likely to marry? So, if a guy isn’t marrying because he is a criminal, that will have no bearing on all the non-criminal sorts of guys who just can’t find a wife due to a shortage of females. Probably the actual result will be older guys marrying younger women because there aren’t enough their own age and older guys will have more money and better jobs than the younger guys women could marry.

    not too late

    December 28, 2012 at 7:16 pm

  14. “more heartier”

    dexelpred

    December 29, 2012 at 4:50 am


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