- The human brain is hardwired to make quick rather than deep decisions, and we tend to prefer easily digestible information that fits with the worldview of our social identity.
- In order to break through their brain’s information filter that blocks acceptance of anything you say, you need to approach them from their other social identity.
- Leverage people’s secondary identities to break through on issues you may disagree with them.
In the business world, we like to think of ourselves as rational beings making clear and intentional decisions based on facts, data and information. More so, we want our colleagues, clients and superiors to also make decisions based on facts.
But people have a strong preference for listening to information that matches their own social identity. If, for example, a coworker strongly believes in the restorative power of organic food and socializes with others who have the same belief structure, then any information to the contrary would shake the core of his worldview and he would filter it.
Thus, multi-year longitudinal studies that might show that organic foods do not have greater health benefits than regular foods would be psychologically rejected and blocked by the individual as being biased, inaccurate, having ulterior motives in research. … But it can be argued that a subset of people determined to pay more for organic food is really not doing society harm, so why try to convince them.
Conversely, in society at large, from climate deniers to flat earthlings to medical refusals, anti-factual thinking can have an impact on others than the individual decision-maker. So-called anti-vaccines that mistakenly believe that vaccines are dangerous cause problems that harm the public good.
Resurgences of measles and polio harm many children because parents take a narrow view of vaccines. Then further, a massive disinformation campaign regarding vaccines for the covid-19 pandemic persists across the world. Reluctance to vaccinate will give the new coronavirus more time and more chance to mutate into ever more deadly variants that can hurt us all.
In the business world, an executive who firmly believes that a new product is desirable and salable, then confidently proceeds with product development, product deployment, and a marketing campaign simply because they feel the product addresses a clear need of the target customer, then also socializes with other people within the company who think it will be difficult to listen to customer surveys, focus groups, or other development data of products showing the opposite.
This framework, therefore, hurts the future of their organization and the security of the future of their employees’ jobs and investor funds.
Psychologists Gale Sinatra and Barbara Hofer present an interesting first step in helping others narrow down their assumptions and rely on data in their conclusion processes.
First you need to break through their information filter which deals with incongruous data that harms their social identity.
The human brain is hardwired to make quick rather than deep decisions, and we tend to prefer easily digestible information that fits with the worldview of our social identity.
Fortunately, people have multiple social identities. An arrogant tunnel-minded executive would find identity in other areas of life as well, maybe he’d also like to watch football, go to church, or travel to nature parks with his children.
In order to break through their brain’s information filter that blocks acceptance of anything you say, you need to approach them from their other social identity.
Chat with them about football so that they see you as someone similar who isn’t looking to attack them.
Talk about your own church experiences. Share your favorite excursions in natural parks and your own family value.
In short, whether it’s someone who harms the public good through his intransigence or an individual who harms your organization by his narrow, non-factual thinking on a topic, take advantage of the secondary identity of people to get things done that you may disagree with.
Dr Scott can be contacted on [email protected] or on Twitter: @ScottProfessor