Session Transcripts

A live transcription team captured the SRCCON sessions that were most conducive to a written record—about half the sessions, in all.

How do we change our minds anyway?

Session facilitator(s): Marie Connelly, B Cordelia Yu

Day & Time: Thursday, 10-11:15am

Room: Johnson

CORDELIA: So before we get started, especially thins this is the first session, I want to bring us into this time and this space. So take a breath. Sort of wind down, feel the earthe beneath your feet. I want to acknowledge that we’re on the traditional grounds of the Chippewa Indians and I learned this practice from Native American activists and I want to recognize their elders’ current and past. And we want to start this way because part of this conversation is about thinking about the world to shape the way we think, so a lot of them are pretty hidden like the fact that we don’t really think that we’re on occupied land. So, like, part of what we want to do here is have the conversations that are going to be difficult because we’re talking about changing minds. Along those lines, couple of content warnings. We may get into topics of classism, and ableism, and those things. So feel free to take care of what you need to do. Speaking of boundaries, we have the lovely Stanley here transcribing for us. So as they said at the beginning, if you want to say something that you’d rather is off the record, just say off the record and he’ll stop, and then say on the record so you can start back up again. And for the friends who are following along on the transcript, if you look at the description of the session, we started prepopulating the etherpad with notes and stuff, so you can follow along there. And… that’s all I had for now.

MARIE: Awesome. One thing that I want to add to this is we’re having this conversation about how we change our minds and we’re going to be sharing personal examples within our tables and the small groups, and maybe within the larger group of what changed your mind. So along the lines of saying, being mindful, being respectful, also recognize that this is not the place where you are trying to change anyone else’s mind. So if somebody’s sharing something that maybe is not what you expected, you know, just kind of maybe feel free to acknowledge that, but, you know, that can be a conversation that you have after the session, or in the hallways in the luminal space of the conference if you feel like maybe there’s an opportunity to help change points of view but we want to make sure that the conversation is really focused on that reflection and the way that we are starting to change our minds, some of the factors that really drive that. So just as kind of a quick overview of what we’re going to talk about. Actually, let’s do something first. Show of hands. Let’s get a sense of who is in the room. How many folks are reporters, journalists, bloggers, people who create content for media organizations? Video, perhaps? Okay. Cool. Awesome. How many folks are, like, editors, other newsroom crew? Okay. A handful. Awesome. On the tech side, developers, engineers? Okay. Awesome. Sort of, yeah. I feel that. Designers? Nice. Okay. Product folks. Ooh, crickets. Who am I missing? What am I missing?

AUDIENCE: People who do three of those things.

MARIE: Yes! Yes! Who wears like 16 different hats. Other roles that I’m missing.

CORDELIA: Community folk? Everyone should be raising their hands.

MARIE: Um, okay. So kind of thinking about that, it looks like we’ve got a really good mix here in the room. Also look at your table and consider whether you are sitting with people that you work with and recognize that maybe we’re going to be sharing some things that you might not want to share with your immediate coworkers and feel free to switch things up at any point. That’s totally fine. All right. So why don’t we — so yeah. So why are we talking about this? A couple of years ago, I really started thinking about this question. I got really interested in how we change our minds and it actually came out of a conversation that I was having with some of my former colleagues where my boss was telling me, you’re doing a really good job in meetings where you’re telling me a strong opinion, or a point of view, and by the end you’ve worked your way around to a different argument and you’re seeing things in a different light, and not really getting struck and holding the team struck in conflict there. And I said, that’s kind of nice. And I got home and I was patting myself on the back, and I got home, and I said, wait a second, do I actually do that in my life outside of work, and I really sat there and thought about when was the last time that I changed my mind about something that felt really important to me. And I sat there for a long time and thought about that, and trying to think about what were those examples, what were those moments and I actually asked this question couple of years ago on Twitter and got some amazing responses from people, which is kind of an impetus for how can we have this discussion in person in a room and share some of that because I think there’s a lot of stuff here, there’s a lot of interesting stuff here. So the way that this is gonna work, we’re going to spend a little bit of time, I’m going to kind of force y’all to have that reflection period that I had for myself. We’re going to spend about five minutes individually with Post-Its. We’ll make sure that you have Post-Its and come around, and we want to jot down, when is a time that you changed your mind. Jot that down, as many as you can. And then another note, what was the catalyst for that change. So we’re going to through that and discuss in small groups, and share that with folks, and really identify what are some common themes. What are themes of things that you changed your mind about something and we’re going to come back together and we’ll talk about — we’ll talk about primarily those themes, those catalysts for change, and Cornelia and I will discuss some research that we’ve been finding about why it’s so hard to change your mind about things and what is being we know is being effective. I’m sure there’s lots of folks in the room, by the way, who are familiar with this research and want this to be a really collaborative discussion. We are not the experts by any stretch so we want everybody here kind of sharing what they know. And then we’re going to have — we’re going to close out on a longer discussion which I think is part of what I’m most excited about, knowing what we know about how people change their points of view, how does that inform the work that we do in media? You know, are there things that we might be doing differently? Are there different ways that we can kind of approach our work? So that’s kind of — I’ve told you what we’re going to talk about. That’s kind of the arc of this but before we kind of dive into you share and jot sit down all your personal examples, we thought it might be useful to share a little bit of our examples of our own. Do you want to go first?

CORDELIA: Sure. So if we’re talking about changing minds, it’s kind of useful to think about how we learn in the first place and, for me, it sort of comes into three forms. You could have a teacher that’s in school, it could be a mentor, it could be a family member, it could be a friend that’s teaching you something. And the second, we research or fine knowledge that we’re coming across. Maybe we’re looking something up, maybe we’re watching television and watching the news. And third is through common practice. Like, through the social — like through social osmosis or, like, Ashville Birdstein (phonetic) might call it, the immediate social justice. And the important part is these three don’t happen completely divorced from one another. They’re sort of interrelated. And sometimes they’re reinforced, or sometimes they’ll like sort of fight against each other. Like imagine what makes boy blue — or blue for boys, and pink for girls. It might be parent goes to the store to buy clothes for an infant, and suddenly gets divided right down the middle. And then, a boy will, I don’t know, in the first grade go, hey, I like pink and tell their parent and the parent will go, oh, but pink is for girls and the only reason you like it is because you are — your teacher is a woman. Which is a thing that happens a lot.

And then years later, that boy is, I don’t know, say, that we’re in Minneapolis watching a Prince music video, and he is fucking rocking pink and it is amazing. So, like, these things are often intentioned. So a quick disclaimer. We’re going to try to cut through all the neurobollocks that’s sort of happening in the way people talk about, I don’t know, cognitive science in general, and some of the neurobollocks is because the research is really bad, and, like, oh, my goodness.

So, like, for me, what — sorry. Notes are getting a little funky. For me, what I’ve found is in the research, there is a role in what a lot of people might call citizenship education, or particularly around political decision-making. But the problem is, there isn’t that much research, partially because, like, in the ’80s, where it was, like, actually something that people studied, the Cold War ended so people cared a bit less. And that meant that there was less grant funding for research around citizen education which meant that money dried up and people stopped caring and they went, well, this is the only way to do this research is through huge longitudinal studies that we don’t have money for. So I’m just going to ignore it.

[ Sneeze ]

Salud! But for the research there is, there are themes sort of to understand around political decision-making where, like, who doesn’t know the term Overton Window? Overton. So — fantastic! There is this idea that — well, the Overton Window is sort of the window of what is allowed — what is acceptable in public discourse. So in one area, it might be totally allowable to talk about the Tianmen Square, and in China, where they’re actively repressing conversations around Tiananmen Square, and essentially, the society itself stops talking about it, as well. So that is outside the Overton Window. In the U.S., talking about racism was kind of a no-no, but these days —

MARIE: Right, lots of things have become acceptable to talk about.

CORDELIA: Yeah, good and bad!

MARIE: Yes.

CORDELIA: So that’s the Overton Window, what is allowed in public discourse and how we shift those.

MARIE: All right. So now this is the point where y’all are going to do some reflection. I’m going to set a timer. You’re going to have five minutes to be with your thoughts and your Post-Its and your pens and your sharpies, and if you don’t have the physical materials, let us know. We will come around and offer them to you and we’ve got these prompts up here on the slides. Again, just thinking about jotting down as many of these examples of times that you have changed your mind. And this can be big. This can be small, this can be something about, you know, your work, this can be something about society. This can be about politics. It can be anything. It could be — you know, I recently realized I don’t actually hate fish. Jot it down — everything. Also, if there are things, there may be things that you realized you changed your mind about, that you don’t want to share. That’s totally okay. You might find it helpful to jot it down a Post-It, turn it over, and let you focus on more ideas. So anything that you don’t want to share with your team, or the table, I guess, or with the larger group, totally okay. But we’re hoping that you’ll be willing to be able to be a little more open about it, and have a great conversation about it. So you’re going to write for five minutes and you’re going to write about what you changed your mind about. And then a quick note about what prompted that change for you. Cool. And just like hands up if you need more Post-Its, pens, anything like that.

Okay. Five minutes. I hope y’all got some interesting things jotted down. I don’t feel that was helpful. We’re going to move into the next part of this where you get to talk to each other. So, again, if you feel like maybe you need to switch off tables, now is a great time to do that. But we’re going to spend the next, let me say, ten minutes here — we’re going to spend the next ten minutes talking about what you found, and, you know, feel free to start to group your tost-Its together. If you need sheets, we can get some easel paper for you, and start to identify some common themes in how change your mind, and the kinds of things that folks at your table have kind of shifted their focus on. And perhaps more exciting about the next part of the conversation, what were some of the common themes or catalysts that helped you change your mind about things. So let’s sit and chat and organize our tost-Its. Well, I think web we’re going to try to maybe put them up on the wall on the end so we can have a nice artifact of our conversation for folks that weren’t able to join. So, ten minutes, let’s go.

CORDELIA: All right, folks. Get ready to wrap up.

MARIE: All right. That’s our ten minutes. It looks like — I’m seeing smiley faces. I’m seeing lots of conversation. It looks like y’all are having some good discussions. I’m sad to cut things off. I want to be respectful of our schedule and also give you an opportunity to share and talk as a group since there are so many folks that I think lots of really great small table conversations are happening. We have talked about a couple different ways to talk about this. And I think having, like, each table kind of reporting back that can be a little tedious. So I think we’re just going to open it up, and this is the point we’re going to talk about what themes you found. Obviously, if you have a personal example you want to share, something that, you know, is a really important catalyst for you, changing your mind about something, we want to hear that. And Cornelia and I are going to jump in and share the research and things that we’ve found but we really want to hear from you, what is it that you’re doing at your table, what is getting you to change your mind.

CORDELIA: And as a request, as you’re sort of deciding who shares the table, if you see yourself as someone who is in a demographic that talks more than others, let someone else talk.

MARIE: And multiple people, you’re free to speak up for multiple people at your table. It doesn’t just have to be a report back. Who wants to go first? Yes, Nicole.

AUDIENCE: We talked a lot about about food for a really long time because it’s really important to all of us. But I think there’s some things, it touched on a lot of different facets. Some people thought that personal relationships were, like, a really big way of getting people being more experimental, or, like, trying new things. Someone also talked about serving in a talk, that changed his mind about — or eating more — less meat for, like, environmental reasons, and then also just like kind of inexplicable like we grew up and our tastes changed by virtue of exposure and stuff.

MARIE: This is why I eat fish now, peer pressure, and also I grew up. I want to see a quick show of hands, how many other people were talking about food at their tables? Oh, yeah. Food is everything! Cornelia, what’s up?

CORDELIA: So one really quick thing around food — I’m a foodie for all the bad things but for, like, certain things we eat, we are actually cognitively incapable of fully appreciating a plate we didn’t grow up with, our brains don’t process the flavors properly and it’s so weird! Anyway. Moving on.

AUDIENCE: Three big themes emerged from things that we’re doing. One is workplace anxiety and agency in the workplace, and often the thing that changed was realizing that you’re important in the workplace and the thing that changed that was usually time and experience. The second was the nuance. Holding a less nuanced belief, and then coming through, you know, experiencing through an individual realizing that those beliefs should — you should bring a warning once to mind, but I grew up in Oklahoma, I really grew up thinking that most Christians are pretty bigoted people. I’m no longer like that. I have much more nuanced beliefs about how that can be true. And the second thing is self-care, learning that eating breakfast is something good for you, and learning that staying up late does not make you feel good the next day.

MARIE: And I think that touches on a lot of what we know about how people come to make change, right? You grow, I certainly heard this, and I’m sure a lot of folks were talking about it, right? You experience more of the world and start to reconsider maybe some initially strongly held, perhaps immature perspectives and a lot of that comes through encountering other people, and being able to — forgive, there’s a term for this that I’m going to forget but it’s kind of like a very basic tenet of empathic, you know, trying to walk a mile in somebody else’s shoes. If you can someone do that, if you can help someone see that perspective, we know that there could be really long lasting implications for how people change their point of view. Do you want to talk about the study about the durability of… yeah? Durability of like trans-rights?

CORDELIA: Yes, so quick look. I heard some of this at the different tables. How many of you had talked about change happening because you’re around other people and being around them changed your mind. Okay. This thing is obvious to us, right? But sometimes scientists like researching obvious things because sometimes it’s not so obvious in the way it works. So a couple of years ago, saying that trans rights is a big thing in the U.S. and around the world right now, a couple of years ago, a group of researchers started doing sort of door-to-door research of, like, seeing someone knocks on your door, finds, oh, this is a person that doesn’t support trans rights, and having a conversation with them. And they found that just by door-knocking the once, they’re able to, like, go from someone who doesn’t really support it, or doesn’t really care to being, like, moving them over to being something of a supporter. And the research found that if you’re a transperson like me, you’re more likely to shift their views because you’re able to tell personal stories, you’re able to say, this is how it affects me as a person. And then they go back six months later and they check and they find that — so the turning behavioral economics is they do the knocker inoculation. It’s very much like, yeah… it’s very much around medical terms because they love that. The people that got inoculated, like, their perception of transfolk stayed, like, positive, and at, like, six months later, and possibly later, but the research was always six to nine months long. So…

AUDIENCE: So I have a follow-up question. So could you share a little bit about the content. Those — when those visitors knock on the door, and have a great conversation, could you share with us, what you talk about during those visits?

CORDELIA: Um, I didn’t — I hadn’t read it recently. Do you remember, Marie?

MARIE: I was speaking on this. And so part of the conversation, they had initially asked, they did some term defining because they felt like, you know, maybe these are not words that people are familiar with, or maybe when I have maybe biased or bigoted terms that they are — that they’re using instead. So they kind of set that definition of, you know, what is a — who is a transperson. What are some of the rights and issues that we’re talking about. They played a video for folks that kind of showed, I think, both kind of both perspectives on issues of — I think this particular thing it was related to a lot of the bathroom bills that have often come up over the past couple of years ago but it was particularly about whether a city should add transgendered people as sort of a — I’m forgetting the legal term. But as a protected class in terms of their equal opportunity documentation and laws. And then they had, I think, a conversation after watching the video basically asking people, you know, has there been a time when you felt excluded and, yes, every few minutes, someone’s felt excluded in their lives, right? So that was kind of their moment that got — the person that they’re talking to. And this is — just a stranger who opened the door to think about and share, hey, this was a time when I was excluded from something. And then, you know, the interviewer who maybe, you know, was trans, maybe wasn’t, although they found that they didn’t have an impact either way, although people who were trans turned out to have more of an impact. And in the end, they did, like, a million surveys as a part of this, right? After doing those surveys as research, they found that the group of people who beened interviewed were showing more support and more understanding of the issue than folks who either hadn’t been interviewed at all, or had been interviewed about the site, or the topic. It’s a really interesting study. We have a link to it in the etherpad. There’s also some other studies which maybe we’ll the chance to talk about, maybe we won’t. I want to see, who else wants to share something, a theme from their table, a theme for something that they found really was a catalyst for them changing their mind a bunch of times. Yes?

AUDIENCE: Just an interesting theme that I think emerged from our different examples is a lot of the things that we’ve identified were about our personal identities like how we’ve thought about ourselves. So whether or not to label ourselves as vegetarian, or being an engineer, or being an manager, what that does for your identity, and I feel like they were all very introspective even though, the influence of conversations with others played a role in defining like the definitions about those.

MARIE: Absolutely. And this touches on something why it’s so hard for us to change our minds about things. How many folks have heard of the term, the backfire effect? Cool. Couple hands. So the backfire effect is basically when you — it kind of plays on our confirmation bias, our tendency to seek out information that already conforms with our point of view, and the backfire effect is when you see a piece of information that challenges what you believe to be true, you double down on your belief. So they’ve done a bunch of research on this and we will share some studies in the etherpad about this, but, basically, like you go — they’ll do something where they’ll bring in a group. They won’t show them any new information. They’ll bring in a new group, they’ll show them new information and the people that got the information that was challenging their point of view feel even more strongly about their original point of view than people that got no new information. And that’s a big part of why we think that happens is that there are these beliefs that — or these opinions, or ideas, that we think, you know, they become part of who we are. They become part of our identity, and the backfire effect is your brain protecting yourself, and trying to say, no, that can’t be true. I can’t be wrong about this, this is who I am. And that is part of what makes it so hard to change. There’s some really interesting research and there’s a link to it in the etherpad about how you can start to overcome the backfire effect. One of the things that they have found is if you start to see — it’s kind of a percentages game. So if you start to see about 14% of the information that you’re consuming is saying this is — that’s my timer. If about 14% of the information that you’re consuming is challenging your point of view, that is enough to get you to start thinking, maybe I’m wrong about something. Maybe this isn’t quite right. The challenge — that doesn’t seem like a lot, right? 14%. The chance is that it has to sustain over about 30% of the information that you’re consuming for you to actually really start to think, oh, maybe there’s a different point of view out there. Maybe I need to reassess. And 30%, I think, in an abstract way, you know, like three news articles out of ten. That doesn’t seem like so much. Three tweets out of ten, when we think about the scale of the information that we’re consuming now, I think it becomes much harder for people to maintain that level of information and that’s challenging their worldview, and much harder than to overcome the backfire effect.

CORDELIA: And it’s not just three tweets or three articles, it’s three interactions with friends, right? Having that one friend who’s really weird, always talking about Marxism but then you have three of them and then you go to dinner and they’re in their corner talking. But, like, every dinner, they’re talking. And you go, that seems interesting. And, like, that’s how it happens, and that’s why friendships and relationships are so important here.

MARIE: Awesome. Let’s do maybe one more example and then we’ll switch to a slightly different topic. Who wants to be our last closing note on this thread of conversation?

AUDIENCE: We have really similar themes but a lot of things that came up at our table that I thought other people would benefit from are the idea of fears and fears that we want and then found new information and thought about ways to face those fears and how those things changed.

MARIE: That’s awesome. And I think that ties into a lot of, like, research around psychology of how we overcome phobias and start to challenge those perspectives, which I’m not as familiar with. I don’t know, if you, Cornelia, if you have thoughts on that.

CORDELIA: Not as much. We have a giant map of all the biases that sort of don’t exactly map on to fears but are related to fears. But I think it’s maybe… you’re like, yeah! That’s the way things are.

AUDIENCE: I just kind of want to add on to that. I just kind of want to add on to that that I think a lot of times the idea of change in our minds is associated with fear. We’re afraid that what can actually be true can impact us negatively, or impact our mindsets. So that’s part of the reason that we hold on to our beliefs.

MARIE: I think that’s totally true and I think there’s also an incentive for us to — certainly people — somebody change their opinion about something as a flip-flopper. It’s not like they evolved their point of view. It’s like they have no beliefs at all and they’re just trying to say whatever they think is going to be appealing. And, sure, maybe that sometimes is true. But I think that pervades the way that we as a society what does it mean to change our minds, what does it mean to be a person of integrity, as someone who has strong beliefs and lives by them and we don’t always accept kind of maybe one of your strong beliefs is to be flexible and open-ended, and to change things. You look like you have something to add to that, Paul.

AUDIENCE: No, I’m just agreeing.

MARIE: One more thought, Chris.

AUDIENCE: I just thought it’s notable that nobody’s raised, I just thought it was noting that nobody’s noted about research. I recently changed about my mind about minimum wage based on research that I read. And the backfire effect was — sometimes they get it wrong on the first pass so the question of how do we change our minds based on science is also valuable.

MARIE: And there’s a lot that we know about how critics do not travel as far as the initial piece of information, right? So that just complicates all of this even further. So I would love to learn about some of the research that was built around the backfire effect so we can kind of add that to our pad and help us rethink what helps us. So it’s really cool. So we have — I’m bad at time. What, 20 minutes?

CORDELIA: Something like that.

MARIE: Um, we want to shift a little bit and think about how this impacts the work that we do. So everything that we’ve been talking about has been personal experience. It’s been kind of new information, and that’s sort of what we do in media, right? We help tell people’s stories, we share acts, maybe we interpret research for a broader audience. So I think there’s a lot that — a lot of this that applies to the work that we’re doing in media, the work that we’re doing in journalism. Do you want to kind of add to kick things off here?

CORDELIA: Do you want to do this as a giant group, or do we want to break people up again?

MARIE: Um, I think we should do it as a giant group. So officially I want to hear what everybody has to say.

CORDELIA: Same.

MARIE: All right. So initial thoughts? How does this — how does what we’ve been talking about, or your kind of understanding of this already impact some of the work that you’re doing?

AUDIENCE: I’m sorry. When you’re — I’m an engineer to constantly create new things different from old things, even in tiny ways. And it helps me when people give me a why for a change. So hopefully, encapsulating the why of why I’m changing a feature that I’m working on, so that if I had to explain this to someone, I could, but I know why I’m doing this change, it’s not change for the sake of change. This is something that I find absolutely in Twitter, which people like to change things at the drop of a hat with seemingly no benefit. But I think the person who mentioned research is important, knowing that the work that I’m doing, and the changes that I’m making are really important, and makes me feel that even if someone doesn’t like the changes that I’m making, that I can explain to them why it’s ultimately useful or good.

MARIE: Cool.

AUDIENCE: Yeah, I was just gonna add, you know, what are the things that I can bring to help impact the work that I do because I’m older and I’ve been through a lot of — you know, my manager is, you know, 15 years younger than I am. So it’s just, you know, having that information can be really helpful. I think one of the things we forget in social media and how we’re all connected is there’s not a lot of room anymore to allow us to make mistakes and I think we should be more open to that and allowing folks to make mistakes and so that’s how you learn, and making mistakes is not a bad thing. It’s not the end of the world, and to actually have an environment where people can experiment and make those mistakes because making mistakes so publicly these days can be terrifying, and as SRCCON says, having each other’s backs is really important. And also being mentors to — and that has really nothing to do with age. It just has to do with experience and heart, and being a mentor, or experience being a mentor yourself.

AUDIENCE: Yeah, so one of the things that came to mind for me is at our table we were talking a lot about the power of received wisdom and how much that — what do we influence that, and how for a lot of us, some of these big changes that we pick out moments where we sort of sake off some of that received wisdom and I guess the thing that immediately came to mind being at a place like New York Times, is being around institutional wisdom that surrounds us all the time. We’re constantly questioning whether something is timely or not and wrestling with that. So I don’t know that path to go into how to change that mindset but I think remaining aware of that path that a lot of us lead in our personal lives and remembering the same path that a similar path might abide to our workplace’s probability.

MARIE: There’s a concept and research about motivated skepticism, rather, being skeptical. Motivated skepticism is saying something that doesn’t conform to your worldview, but where being a little bit suspicious of things can help us, questioning that can give us an in. Yeah?

AUDIENCE: For me, I’m a person with very strongly held beliefs, deeply strong, and I will voice them frequently which is not always the best quality when you’re in a newsroom. So I’m having to ask myself, why, why I hold those beliefs? Is it because we talk a lot about about sort of how we get framed into beliefs and then at some point in your life, we question them. So I often have to take a step back before I open my mouth. Why is this a belief that I hold? Is it because it’s a belief that institutionally has been handled into me. Is it culturally different from the people in the room and that’s why I held it. Is it because my parents held it, and I never really thought about it until that moment. So, for me, I do a lot of engagement and inclusion work that really answers the question why I have that belief in the moment.

CORDELIA: And I want to ask that question of if this is not just how we, in this room, but everybody changes their mind, correct? How do we present a space, not just present information for readers, but a space for readers to create work. We’re not the ones trying to change people’s minds, we’re the ones trying to about our people to make the right decision. So how do we create the space necessary to change people’s minds?

AUDIENCE: I’m Emily, and last week I was conducting some user research with members of De Correspondent, which is a correspondent in the Netherlands. And they do a very constructed approach which is one way to address Cornelia’s question. I was so struck hearing from these readers saying I love it when reporters acknowledge their vulnerabilities. I love it when they tap into my unique professional expertise. I love it when they say, there’s a gap in this reporting, help me fill it in with sources, and so I think being a bit more human and not always having to have that buttoned-up institutional voice but saying, I have an active inquiry on this topic, come with me and help me is a real step change that I’m pretty fascinated by.

MARIE: That’s awesome. I feel like I’m miking folks over here. Are there folks over here who had their hand up?

AUDIENCE: I’m Jessica. So I realize when I was an engineer, I had my head down at my desk and got my work done, and that was fine but now that I’m a manager, I have to talk to more people. Hi, people!

[ Laughter ]

So and also outside of work, I’ve started to talk to people of different cultures, different backgrounds, from all different places in the world a lot more often and kind of what you were saying about the vulnerability. The more I’m able to really see people and see the human aspect, I’m much more likely to change my opinion about things that are really deeply rooted. So a fad statistic won’t really change something that I’m really emotionally reacted to, but seeing someone react to that personally changes things. And to add to that, I’ve started to look at my — I do a lot of inclusion work for the company and I’ve started to look at my own network as I’m the hub of my own company. So how many different perspectives, how diverse am I really having my network and also, like, really deep connections so that I can get with a real human perspective of different people

MARIE: Do you want to add something here?

AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m Joe, the phrase motivated skepticism reminded me of the phrase motivated reason and this is more of a question than anything else but I feel might being we see a lot of evidence of people not really wanting to change their minds, and maybe sort of try to get characteristics of people who are willfully believing things that are demonstrably false. But how do we as media people contend with the fact that people choose the beliefs and create morals and structures. So that’s not anything more than an opening for ideas as to how we might work on that.

MARIE: That’s the $64,000 question!

AUDIENCE: Hi, I’m Karen. While wondering about this conversation, I’m thinking a lot about how to think about climate change which is a topic that has a lot of people building very strong walls around them. And I was thinking a lot about how you said 14% — if 14% of the material that you’re exposed to challenges your opinion, maybe you’re more open to that, which is interesting because usually the way that people communicate about climate change is by bombarding the person with 100% of the material that challenges their opinion and so I think maybe one way to break down walls that have already been built is to really validate the individual for — validate why they might hold the opinion going back to the why, without necessarily validating the opinion itself, and, like, giving that person a lot of respect instead of what is traditionally done, which is being very submissive, telling them that they’re stupid, telling them that they’re antiintellectual and things like that.

MARIE: Yeah, and that can be super hard and sometimes it’s not the way that we want to do things but there is — there is some good research around this and we have a link, I think, to this in the etherpad, as well, where if you can help frame things for someone within their worldview and kind of along the lines of their belief. So I think the classic example of climate change is green energy jobs are really great for the economy. That can be — you know, that shouldn’t be the end of the conversation, but it can be an entryway for people to say, I don’t feel threatened by this conversation so I can start to reassess.

AUDIENCE: Hi, so I feel like what I have to say builds nicely on some of the things that have been just been said. One thing that our table just discussed was this idea that with the experience is often a very powerful tool for convincing more so than just kind of like bombarding the information. And I feel that that is — it helps us kind of think about ways that we can be constructive and kind of helping people change their minds. I’m talking about kind of an anecdotal example. I’m an engineer, in the team that I’m on, we’ve often found that words aren’t often the best way to convince people about problems, and the way to focus on it. But often better ways of doing that is with coded examples, or by audio example. But I think there’s this general example here of being proactive and being constructive instead of submissive and just kind of bombarding information without context is important.

CORDELIA: I have something to add to that. Like, we all learn in different ways, right? And, yet, like, traditionally journalism, we tell people things in very specific ways. Either you’re putting something in their ears, or through their eyes and their ears, or it’s text on a page. But, like, what if they don’t learn through that way? What if they learn through interaction. Like, what is not just interactive journalism in the sense of an interactive infographic but interactive as in a conversation that’s happening between people. How do we get that conversation back and make that substantive. That’s something that I think about a lot.

AUDIENCE: I’m Elizabeth and I have heard climate change through the reporter. And I’ve struggled with this a lot is do I just beat down the facts on the people, or is that really doing anything and so I’ve kind of, in the past six months or so, taken what I think is a more inclusive approach and tried to talk about the things that people want to talk about and so one of the things that I’m working on right now is we’re doing a big conversation around the future of agriculture in the Midwest. And I expected to talk about climate change. It’s gonna come up but people don’t want to talk about climate change in agriculture. They just — I mean, I’ll only give a certain segment to people that want to talk about that and so how can I be, how can we be in our coverage decisions be more inclusive and make sure that we’re not just reaching one segment of the audience?

AUDIENCE: I guess as it relates to politics and speaking to the other side of an issue, I feel like journalists maybe have a lot to learn about the advertisers that it’s just as much about the messenger than it is about the message and I think there’s a lot of research that supports the idea that people trust — people trust someone who has their best interests at heart, and who they believe understands their worldview over something like that factually correct. And so I think, like, advertisers recognize this already. That’s why they target influencers to help people buy their products. And so I’m wondering how can journalists learn to leverage those same tools to get people to see other sides of the issue.

MARIE: Gosh, so many hands.

AUDIENCE: So it is — to the sort of how does this impact our work question. I feel like this theme of experiential mind changing is really prevalent in news media because they kind of experience — it may involve some level of personal acceptedness but it also involves privilege. I’ve traveled through this country and learning this or another thing. I travel to a new city and I see something different from what I grew up with. And I think that tools of power like oppression can make it effectively harder to change people’s minds. So I guess maybe that’s a just onus to the question is maybe as media people, should we be trying to change people’s minds, or should we embrace something like that more adversarial? Let’s try to change laws, let’s try to get people fired, or put in jail. And, you know, should we be trying to sort of impact something at a different level than changing people’s minds?

MARIE: I think this is a really good question and I’m surprised that it’s coming up kind of at the end of the question, and not at the beginning. But one of the things that I was not surprised by but kind of reminded of it and refresh it little bit on in doing some reading is sometimes it’s not hard about changing minds. Sometimes it’s about changing society, right? And that your mind — your behavior changes first and then your beliefs kind of follow. And I think that’s interesting thing for us to think about in our work.

CORDELIA: I wasn’t going to talk about this but I think it fits. So in Taiwan, which, until 30 years and a month ago, actually 30 years and two and a half weeks ago was completely under authoritarianism. But right now their independent journalists are doing something interesting where there was a crowdsourced project called Talk to Taiwan, which it worked when it started. It worked as a journalist sits down with a policy maker or a policy activist, or whoever, whoever is an expert in an issue. They say for, like, the first week before, we’re going to talk to this person live on stream on Facebook. Tell us your questions. And then they use a system called poll list for everyone to sort of make the statements around the issues, say they’re talking to the minister of transportation around expanding freeways. It can not that boring but whatever. And anyone can make a statement and everyone votes yes/no/pass. And that builds up the general first half of the conversation, anyone can watch. And then they start paying attention to the Facebook comments, which, you know, meh… but they started paying attention to the Facebook comments to see what people were saying back, and then they’re still using poll lists in the background. So maybe the minister of transportation says I want to put X number of dollars into expanding the freeway between Taipei, and Taiyang, and someone in the Facebook comment would say, I don’t think we have consensus on this. And anyone who’s watching, which could be thousands of people, say, yes, I agree, or no, I disagree, or pass. And it becomes journalism not as changing people’s minds, but journalism as a facilitator for the conversation in which we create the space for people to change each other’s minds. And that’s kind of beautiful to me. I don’t know how it worked there but yeah.

MARIE: I think that’s an amazing example and a really good note for us to end on. Unfortunately we have to stop. It is 11:15. So if you want to continue the conversation at any point, lunches, after, during breaks, after, you know, the session ends this evening or tomorrow, I would love to talk to you about this, if you want to connect on Twitter, if you want to add thoughts, or notes, or questions, or ideas on the etherpad, we’d love to have that, as well. We are trying to do a write-up for this session afterwards and if you have been taking photos or want to quickly, you know, grab a shot of your lovely colorful Post-Its of the room, or whatever, please share those with us. We’d love to have those so we can make our posts a little more visually interesting. And we’re here, stick around and chat. But we want to respect your time and make sure that you can get your snacks and chat with folks and move on to the next session. So thank you all so much!

[ Applause ]