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20221120 – How Mind Change



This book is about persuasion and techniques developed by psychologists to apply it successfully. The author defines the objective this way: “Persuasion is not coercion, and it is also not an attempt to defeat your intellectual opponent with facts or moral superiority, nor is it a debate with a winner or a loser. Persuasion is leading a person along in stages, helping them to better understand their own thinking and how it could align with the message at hand. You can’t persuade another person to change their mind if that person doesn’t want to do so, and as you will see, the techniques that work best focus on a person’s motivations more than their conclusions.” The book provides multiple examples of successful changes of mind that occur internally when a person experiences some kind of cognitive dissonance resulting in such change. However, the bulk of the book is dedicated to presenting the research results and reviewing successful methods of manipulation applied to changing people’s minds. For example, the author describes in detail such methods as “Deep Canvassing” and “Street Epistemology” used by democratic activists. Here are the steps:


  1. Establish rapport. Assure the other person you aren’t out to shame them, and then ask for consent to explore their reasoning.
  2. Ask how strongly they feel about an issue on a scale of one to ten.
  3. Share a story about someone affected by the issue.
  4. Ask a second time how strongly they feel. If the number moved, ask why.
  5. Once they’ve settled, ask, “Why does that number feel right to you?”
  6. Once they’ve offered their reasons, repeat them back in your own words. Ask if you’ve done a good job summarizing. Repeat until they are satisfied.
  7. Ask if there was a time in their life before they felt that way, and if so, what led to their current attitude?
  8. Listen, summarize, repeat.
  9. Briefly share your personal story of how you reached your position, but do not argue.
  10. Ask for their rating a final time, then wrap up and wish them well.


  1. Establish rapport. Assure the other person you aren’t out to shame them, and then ask for consent to explore their reasoning.
  2. Ask for a claim.
  3. Confirm the claim by repeating it back in your own words. Ask if you’ve done a good job summarizing. Repeat until they are satisfied.
  4. Clarify their definitions. Use those definitions, not yours.
  5. Ask for a numerical measure of confidence in their claim.
  6. Ask what reasons they have to hold that level of confidence.
  7. Ask what method they’ve used to judge the quality of their reasons. Focus on that method for the rest of the conversation.
  8. Listen, summarize, repeat.
  9. Wrap up and wish them well.

Here is a very nice graphic example of how successful change in attitudes to family occurred over time:



I think it is an excellent summary of manipulative techniques when a well-trained activist could influence an unprepared person of another persuasion. The key here is to make sure that one deals with unprepared persons who do not have the tools and knowledge to defend their views. Actually, I do not think that all this is that new. The salespeople used a lot of this for ages, albeit it was developed not in psychological laboratories but rather based on empirical experience in the field. 

Another essential caveat is to avoid substantial discussion that could easily backfire by strengthening the views of ideological others if their position is more realistic and beneficial to them. As long as the substance could be avoided, these others could be moved in small steps away from the original position, or at least to develop doubt in its validity.

The problem for leftists overall, either Soviet communists or American democrats, is that the reality comes in every time after achieving political power. Whether this power was achieved via mass violence and could be held for generations or via manipulation of people and falsification of election results, therefore lasting only until the next election, the reality of leftists in power is always painful. This pain could come in the form of starvation and misery for decades or in the relatively benign form of high inflation and economic stagnation. Still, in either case, it eventually leads to the removal of leftists from power, at least until the economy is restored, life becomes better, and, once again, people become open to manipulation.


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