Sunday, August 16, 2015

Changing Minds by Howard Gardner

Psychologist Howard Gardner considers the ways people alter their thoughts and behavior in his book Changing Minds. Gardner is known for his work in multiple intelligences, which play a part in changing minds, though I won’t focus on that aspect of it here.

The heart of the book is the mind-changing factors. To be effective, a mind-changing effort will use multiple factors. Some appeal to the mind such as a rational approach (reason) and relevant data (research). Some appeal to the heart such as right feeling (resonance). Others could appeal to both: resources and rewards and real world events. In addition, a mind-changer must prepare for resistance; it is difficult to change a mind, especially to change the theories of how the world works the people form in youth.

Garnder illustrates these concepts at work through several historical examples, some recent, as well as some examples from his own life. These are arranged by scale, from influencing the large, heterogeneous population of a nation down to an individual changing his own mind (even if he won’t admit he did). He also discusses direct attempts to change minds (by political and business leaders) and indirect attempts (through science and the arts).

As someone who spends part of his time presenting training on safety in an industrial setting, changing behaviors is important to me. My coworkers need to be able to recognize hazards in our workplace and take appropriate steps protect themselves or each other (that is only part of a safety program, but it is an important part). I haven’t decided yet how to apply these concepts, but it seems to me that the mind-changing factors identified by Gardner give me a framework for estimating how effective a training might be by seeing which factors I am using and incorporating additional factors.

Gardner, H. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds. Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004.