September 11, 2020

Credit: Tony Anderson / Getty Images

Election season is upon us and everywhere you look someone is trying to coax you to vote for their candidate or issue. As we all know, old habits die hard and getting a person to shift their deeply-held opinions, political or otherwise, isn’t easy.

Jonah Berger, a marketing professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and the author of, “The Catalyst - How To Change Anyone’s Mind,” explains why reaching a tipping point isn’t about pushing for more but asking for less -- at least initially. 

Three Takeaways:

  • We tend to be creatures of habit, with a built-in “status quo bias,” according to Berger, which could explain why many voters stick with the same political party year after year. In this election cycle, he says the presidential candidates are mostly shying away from party-specific issues and focusing on broader concerns, in an attempt to get those in the middle of the political spectrum to vote for them.
  • During these challenging times, with the COVID-19 pandemic, economic uncertainty and civil unrest, voters may be more open to the idea of change, but Berger says it’s still easier to change somebody’s mind through incremental steps rather than all at once. 
  • Presenting facts and evidence to try and convince someone to shift on a particular issue may sound logical, but behavioral scientists have found this approach can backfire and lead people to become even more entrenched in their views. Berger says a better approach is to find common ground before trying to gain agreement on a more thorny issue.

More Reading:

  • Find out how the science of political persuasion is being used by the Biden and Trump campaigns.
  • Learn why exposure to different views on social media can create more division and political polarization, not less, according to the results of an experiment led by sociologist, Christopher Bail.
  • Trying to win over swing voters is a tough ask and this study shows why campaigns need to get more creative if they want to sway minds.

persuasion, Culture, Jonah Berger

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