Do People Change Their Minds? (Yes, more than most realize!)

In a guest post on Scott Adam’s Blog, Diana Wales poses the question: “Have You Ever Changed Your Mind?” She writes: “Humans are stubborn creatures. For most people, once they pick a side, their decision making is over – forever. Any evidence that might indicate that maybe there is a better option is ignored or derided, unless they perceive obvious and significant personal benefits for making a change. And even then they might hold fast. I used to live in Chicago, and I knew some Cubs fans that were more likely to change their gender than their allegiance to the Cubbies, despite a century of disappointment.”

And we all know people like this, so it’s an easy premise to accept. I think her observation is flawed, but it’s still a great post because, like so many that Scott writes, it encourages introspection and suggests spending some brain cycles on thought experiment, which can so often result in productive connections elsewhere in one’s life.  So when Diana asks, “…have you had some other epiphany that caused you to change your stance on a fundamental choice, like your political affiliations, religion, right to bear arms, or choice of smart phone, and if so, what was it? What does it take to change a mind?” I was compelled to answer.

While it may not constitute true “change,” in his book “How to Fail…” Scott influenced me to re-evaluate my view of goals vs. systems and how I use both. Am I more change-minded than most? Probably, but still…

Yes, humans are stubborn, often irrationally so, but contrary to her premise I believe that change is more the norm than the exception — unless one constrains their observation to the short term or limits their definition of change to full diametric shifts.

Certainly by the mid-twenties (if not the late teens) peoples’ beliefs and behavioral parabolas have solidified, often requiring external pressure or catastrophe to shift. But major changes can come over time, driven by a steady drumbeat of media, evolving social mores, economic incentives, or accumulating frustrations. Or, some might argue, aging. Not as dramatic as an epiphany, granted, but still substantive change, right?

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