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How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion (Hardcover)
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The 2022 Porchlight Marketing and Sales Book of the Year
A brain-bending investigation of why some people never change their minds—and others do in an instant—by the bestselling author of You Are Not So Smart
What made a prominent conspiracy-theorist YouTuber finally see that 9/11 was not a hoax? How do voter opinions shift from neutral to resolute? Can widespread social change only take place when a generation dies out? From one of our greatest thinkers on reasoning, HOW MINDS CHANGE is a book about the science, and the experience, of transformation.
When self-delusion expert and psychology nerd David McRaney began a book about how to change someone’s mind in one conversation, he never expected to change his own. But then a diehard 9/11 Truther’s conversion blew up his theories—inspiring him to ask not just how to persuade, but why we believe, from the eye of the beholder. Delving into the latest research of psychologists and neuroscientists, HOW MINDS CHANGE explores the limits of reasoning, the power of groupthink, and the effects of deep canvassing. Told with McRaney’s trademark sense of humor, compassion, and scientific curiosity, it’s an eye-opening journey among cult members, conspiracy theorists, and political activists, from Westboro Baptist Church picketers to LGBTQ campaigners in California—that ultimately challenges us to question our own motives and beliefs. In an age of dangerous conspiratorial thinking, can we rise to the occasion with empathy?
An expansive, big-hearted journalistic narrative, HOW MINDS CHANGE reaches surprising and thought-provoking conclusions, to demonstrate the rare but transformative circumstances under which minds can change.
About the Author
David McRaney is an author, journalist, lecturer, and the creator of the blog You Are Not So Smart, which became an internationally bestselling book, later followed by You Are Now Less Dumb. David currently hosts the popular You Are Not So Smart podcast and speaks internationally about irrational thinking and delusion. Before finding internet fame, David graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi and cut his teeth covering Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast and in the Pine Belt region of the Deep South. He has been a beat reporter, editor, photographer, voice-over artist, television host, digital content manager, and everything in between.
“A combination of compelling overview and practical strategy . . . Convincing advice regarding a timely issue.”
“McRaney makes a convincing case . . . and backs it up with what science has to say about ‘replac[ing] old ignorance with new wisdom.’ The result is an eye-opening survey filled with heart.”
“How Minds Change explores why some world views seem so stubbornly immune to reason . . . Hence McRaney’s ‘softly softly’ approach, inspired by conversational techniques such as ‘street epistemology’ and ‘deep canvassing,’ which sometimes trigger remarkable conversations . . . a world champion debater cannot change your mind; only you can do that.”
“Indeed, [McRaney’s] writing is a tonic for those who might scratch their head at how others could be so nonsensical as to distrust vaccines, believe the Earth is flat or subscribe to any other number of conspiracy theories. It helps shift perceptions from the unhelpful attitude of ‘this person is stupid and beyond help’ to ‘this person has a different frame of belief, and they can be encouraged to think more deeply about the issue.’’
The New Scientist
“An optimistic, illuminating and even inspiring read . . . a rousing call to action . . . But McRaney is also inspiring in his quieter revelations.”
"A riveting read on the art and science of persuasion. David McRaney's brilliant book will force you to rethink your views about how to motivate other people to rethink theirs. In a time when too many minds seem closed, this is a masterful analysis of what it takes to open them."
Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the podcast WorkLife
"If you join David McRaney on this journey — a spirited tour that ranges from activists to scientists to cultists — you’ll arrive in an unexpected place. He shows us how generous conversations can replace zero-sum debates and how genuine empathy can close deep divisions. How Minds Change is the ideal book for our perilous moment.”
Daniel H. Pink, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Power of Regret, To Sell is Human, and Drive
“This book is a fascinating journey through the neuroscience and psychology of how we form and update our opinions. How Minds Change is the book our society desperately needs right now. David McRaney shows us how to connect, consider, and see the potential for change in others and ourselves.”
Scott Barry Kaufman, host of The Psychology Podcast
"Filled with the kinds of captivating real-life stories that you can't wait to tell your friends and the latest scientific insights from psychology and beyond, McRaney's book provides a surprising glimpse into why changing human minds is so damn hard... but also the good news that it can in fact be possible with the right strategies."
Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology at Yale University and host of The Happiness Lab podcast
“When I first talked to David McRaney about How Minds Change, I found myself taking mad notes on everything he was explaining to me! Thank goodness he wrote the book so I can relax and just soak it all in!”
Simon Sinek, Optimist and New York Times bestselling author of Start with Why and The Infinite Game
"McRaney's topic in How Minds Change couldn't be more important, and he's the perfect guide to it: warm, witty, and powered by an infectious curiosity."
Julia Galef, author of The Scout Mindset
"There is perhaps no greater nut to crack than how we can more easily change minds, including our own, in the face of compelling evidence. David McRaney has turned his attention to this important problem in recent years and shares the surprising nature of why minds do and do not change. In these contentious times, it's heartening to have David's book on hand -- to teach us about burgeoning research into effectively changing minds and how it might be more achievable in certain contexts than we might think."
Maya Shankar, creator and host of A Slight Change of Plans
"That very rare thing - an astonishingly interesting book on a vitally important topic."
Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman at Ogilvy UK and author of Alchemy: The Surprising Power Of Ideas That Don't Make Sense
"This is a must-read manual for anyone interested in the seemingly impossible task of changing people’s minds. Discover the science behind how we form beliefs, attitudes, and values, and the surprisingly simple way our views can shift."
Logan Ury, author of How To Not Die Alone
"In an era where people feel separated by polarization and tribalism, David goes beyond simple academic concepts and provides concrete strategies to create meaningful conversations that can shift perspectives and connect people."
Jon Levy, behavioral scientist and New York Times bestselling author of You're Invited
"If you didn't like Dave McRaney's writing before, not only will this book change your mind, it'll explain why that happens."
Dean Burnett, neuroscientist and bestselling author of The Idiot Brain
"David McRaney changed my mind about changing minds. Now I think it is possible. All is not lost. We can bridge these enormous gaps in our culture and repair our epistemic foundations – but it will take a lot of hard work, as well as the ideas found in this hugely important and enlightening book. If you want to be a better thinker and citizen and aren’t ready to give up on the world, this book is a must-read."
AJ Jacobs, journalist and author the New York Times bestseller The Year of Living Biblically
"David McRaney, more than just about anybody, has devoted his life to exploring the surprising tricks that our minds play on us. He is a master of using fascinating stories to teach us important principles of psychology. While David's previous work focused on how reasoning and decision-making so often go wrong and how we manage to convince ourselves we're right, now he is tackling the other side of the coin: how it is that we sometimes dramatically change our minds."
Spencer Greenberg, founder and CEO of Spark Wave
"David McRaney is one of our finest science communicators, and How Minds Change is his greatest achievement yet. Brilliantly smart, continually entertaining and utterly timely, it will change the way you see the world - and help you change others."
Will Storr, journalist and author of The Status Game
"A timely, informative, and encouraging case for why the craziness paralyzing our society may not be permanent, and a refreshingly actionable proposal for changing ourselves, among others."
Douglas Rushkoff, author of Present Shock and Team Human
"As a social psychologist who studies interpersonal conflict, I've given up on my ability to change the minds of some of my closest family members and friends. I've tried all of the tricks to try to get my different-thinking close others to abandon their (false) beliefs. To keep our relationships in tact we talk about the weather. David McRaney’s book has changed this steadfast pessimist not into an optimist but a realist. His perspective is fresh and actionable. He recommends honesty when trickery feels more appealing. And it works. Read this book cover to cover--it will change how you feel about tackling one of the most difficult relationship challenges: Changing the minds of the people we care about, without damaging the relationship itself."
Tessa West, social psychologist and author of Jerks at Work
"Whether you’ve watched a loved one fall down a rabbit hole of misinformation or need to persuade your colleagues at work, this is the book for you. David McRaney weaves together a blend of gripping stories and cutting-edge research on the science of changing minds. In an age of fake news, conspiracy theories, and propaganda, he gives you the tools to get through to others and help them come to their damn senses."
Jay Van Bavel, psychologist and author of The Power of Us
"I loved How Minds Change—a book that's crammed with amazing stories and eye-opening reporting. McRaney is a gifted science writer."
Clive Thompson, author of Coders: The Making of A New Tribe and the Remaking of the World