Explanatory Coherence: The Long Game in Changing Perspective

Realistically, changing someone’s mind on a big issue in one fell swoop happens only extremely rarely. In an article for Fast Company, Art Markman describes how an aggressive long-term campaign is your best shot at changing a person’s perspective. It has to do with “explanatory coherence,” the idea that “strongly held beliefs form a network of consistent concepts.” Thus, if you want to change someone’s mind on one subject, you are not just trying to cut down a tree—you are trying to trim the vast network of foliage that prevents you from even touching the tree.

If you want to change people’s minds, you need to basically do three things: (1) create doubt in their minds about the sources that currently feed their beliefs, (2) provide evidence that supports the new belief you are trying to instill, and (3) keep this up over time. Using a multitude of diverse sources will be critical in sustaining your argument, in order to minimize the other party’s ability to claim sources are fraudulent or inaccurate. Someday, that tree might finally fall.

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