Monday, August 26, 2013

How to "win" a political debate ... maybe

Want to Win a Political Debate? Try Making a Weaker Argument

Gun control? Abortion? The new social science behind why you’re never able to convince friends or foes to even consider things from your side.

My friend Anne Vouga reposted this article from Pacific Standard Online on Facebook, and I couldn’t resist sharing it. It’s a good, reasoned essay, and its key point makes sense:  You're more likely to win a debate by looking for common ground than taking the position farthest from your opponent.

I'm not sure I'm 100 percent on board: It assumes a reasonable adversary who's also willing to play by these rules.  And I'm not sure it works for deep moral issues that are difficult to compromise; or when responding to a "false equivalence" position in a polarized political situation where "meet me halfway" means "give up half of your core philosophy."

But it's definitely food for thought.
Here are the first few paragraphs. Follow the link below to read the rest. It's well worth the time spent to read it all.

August 23, 2013
By Eric Horowitz

If all of American politics could be epitomized by a single emotion, it would be the frustration of watching an ignorant politician maniacally disregard the proof that your own position is correct. Professional politicians are dogmatic in part so they can remain “pure” for re-election, but even average citizens talking policy with their friends are rarely swayed by each other’s arguments.

Lately, there’s been a growing emphasis on psychological explanations for such intransigence. There could be an entire book of syndicated newspaper columns that discuss “motivated reasoning”—the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms your existing beliefs. But research on human motivation also hints at a simpler and somewhat startling reason for the lack of flip-flopping: Nobody makes the type of arguments that are likely to change minds.

Read the full article here: