Sometimes when I want folks to pay attention to our topic for the week I pander to them with a photo that they’ll recognize but literally has nothing to do with what we’ll be talking about. This is one of those times.
It’s not that we couldn’t have a really interesting conversation about David Bowie, because we could. Instead I want to riff off of the idea of changes, specifically about whether and how we change our minds. Not about trivial things, which I suspect most of us do pretty regularly, but changing our minds about big things. Big issues. Things that matter to us.
Michael Pollan’s book How to Change Your Mind notwithstanding, the jury is kind of out on whether people can truly change their minds, beyond the kind of psychedelic-facilitated brain rewiring that Pollan writes about. On the one hand, we see evidence of people changing their minds all the time, whether the longtime atheist who becomes religious, or the lifelong meat eater who become a vegetarian, or the fact that people become more conservative as they get older. There’s evidence to suggest that positivity can pave the way to a flexible mind. And, frankly, change is a process that doesn’t happen over night. It takes time.
On the other hand, there is evolutionary hardwiring that leads us to resist changing our minds. Bonds forged by shared ideas and beliefs made it easier for our ancient ancestors to cooperate for mutual survival, and those mechanisms are still at work. We also know that we are psychologically resistant to facts that challenge what we already choose to believe and accept. In large part this is because beliefs and opinions are often tied to identity. Finally, we know that first impressions make a stronger imprint on our brains than those that come later.
An article at the website The Perspective sums the debate up this way: “People’s natural and social impulses guide them away from change as much as they steer them toward it.” So this is what we’re going to talk about in our conversation this week. What do you think? Are we hopelessly set in our ways, or always free to break into new mindsets? What do you think? Can people change their minds? Is this something that you have done? When is the last time you changed your mind on a big issue, or something that mattered to you? What was that issue, and what led you to think about it in a new way? Are there ideas you hold now that you think are candidates for having your mind changed? What might those be?
We’ll talk about all of this, and probably a lot of unrelated stuff, in our conversation tomorrow evening, Tuesday, Oct. 11. The discussion starts at 7pm at 313 Pizza Bar in downtown Lake Orion.