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How Minds Change summary

David McRaney

The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion

4.6 (501 ratings)
21 mins

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'How Minds Change' by David McRaney explores the psychology of beliefs and attitudes. It provides insights on how we can change our minds through evidence and critical thinking, instead of just relying on emotions and biases.

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    How Minds Change
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    Even the most stubborn of believers can ultimately change their minds.

    In June 2011, five British conspiracy theorists boarded a flight in London bound for New York City. They were accompanied by a TV crew responsible for creating the BBC series Conspiracy Road Trip. In each episode of the show, a different part of the conspiracy community travels somewhere in the world. There, they meet experts and eyewitnesses who challenge their beliefs with facts and evidence. The goal is to get them to have changed their minds by the end of the episode.

    This particular episode focused on five “truthers” –⁠ people who believe that the official narrative of what happened on 9/11 is a lie. They traveled to New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, where they met experts in explosives, demolition, air travel, and construction, in addition to family members of victims, government officials, and architects. They also trained in a commercial airline simulator and took flying lessons that let them soar over New York City. 

    How many of them do you think ultimately changed their minds? On every other episode of Conspiracy Road Trip, the number was exactly zero. But this time, it was one.

    The person in question was Charlie Veitch, a prominent thought leader within the truther community. At the time, Charlie was famous for his YouTube conspiracy videos – some with over a million views – and for his regular practice of hitting the streets with a megaphone, trying to recruit people into the movement. He had befriended and collaborated with well-known conspiracy theorists Alex Jones and David Icke.

    However, something changed for Charlie during the filming of the episode. His certainty in his beliefs began to be eroded by his encounters with demolition experts, seeing the blueprints of the Twin Towers, and attending the flight school. His final epiphany occurred when meeting two people, Alice Hoagland and Tom Heidenberger, who had lost family members during the attacks. As he described it, the change in his opinion was like a sudden “bang!”

    When the truthers reconvened later in the episode, none of them were on the same page as Charlie. They argued that Hoagland –⁠ one of the family members that Charlie had met –⁠ had either been brainwashed by the FBI or was a paid actress. They were firmly caught in the conspiratorial loop –⁠ a kind of logical prison in which people claim that any contradictory evidence is purposely designed and planted by the conspirators to mask the truth.

    How, then, was Charlie able to break free of the loop? Was it the strength of the evidence alone that convinced him? It couldn’t have been –⁠ otherwise the other truthers on the trip would have been equally convinced. In fact, there was something else going on in Charlie’s life that set the stage for him to change his mind. To understand why, we’ll need to talk about why people begin to hold tightly to a set of beliefs in the first place.

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    What is How Minds Change about?

    How Minds Change (2022) is a deep dive into why we believe, why we keep believing, and why, sometimes, we stop believing. More than that, it’s a guide to changing minds –⁠ not through manipulation or coercion, but through empathy and open-mindedness.

    How Minds Change Review

    How Minds Change explores the fascinating topic of why and how people change their minds. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • With eye-opening insights, the book reveals the psychological mechanisms behind mindset shifts, allowing readers to understand and navigate the process of changing their minds.
    • Backed by research and real-life examples, the book offers a comprehensive understanding of cognitive biases, persuasion techniques, and the power of empathy in influencing beliefs.
    • By delving into diverse case studies and exploring the emotional and social factors that impact our perspectives, the book keeps readers engaged and ensures it's definitely not boring.

    Who should read How Minds Change?

    • Psychology and neuroscience geeks
    • Friends and family members of conspiracy theorists or dogmatic political activists
    • Anyone who knows a person whose mind they’d like to change

    About the Author

    David McRaney is a science journalist and creator of the blog, book, and podcast You Are Not So Smart. He is also the author of You Are Now Less Dumb, and he gives lectures all around the world on the topics of reasoning, belief, and decision-making.

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    How Minds Change FAQs 

    What is the main message of How Minds Change?

    The main message of How Minds Change is that our beliefs are not set in stone and can be changed through learning and experience.

    How long does it take to read How Minds Change?

    The reading time for How Minds Change varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. However, the Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is How Minds Change a good book? Is it worth reading?

    How Minds Change provides valuable insights into the human mind. It is definitely worth reading for anyone interested in personal growth and understanding how our beliefs shape our lives.

    Who is the author of How Minds Change?

    The author of How Minds Change is David McRaney.

    What to read after How Minds Change?

    If you're wondering what to read next after How Minds Change, here are some recommendations we suggest:
    • You are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney
    • Collective Illusions by Todd Rose
    • Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John C. Maxwell
    • Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman
    • Why is Sex Fun? by Jared Diamond
    • Free Speech by Jacob Mchangama
    • Never Split the Difference (new version) by Chris Voss and Tahl Raz
    • 7 Strategies for Wealth & Happiness by Jim Rohn
    • Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams
    • The End of Bias by Jessica Nordell