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“How Facts Backfire”

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I’ve written several times about the importance of building relationships with those who you want to influence, and by doing that learn their hopes and dreams so you can help them achieve their goals. That strategy is behind successful community organizing, and I discuss how those who want to encourage the use of educational technology in schools can use it in my post “A Few Simple Ways To Introduce Reluctant Colleagues To Technology.”

I characterize it as a question:

“Do I want to be right? Or do I want to be effective?”

The Boston Globe has just published a related article titled How Facts Backfire. It talks about how just hearing the “facts” does not influence many people to change any of their beliefs and, in fact, can backfire by reinforcing what they thought before — even if it is contrary to the facts.

I was particularly struck by this passage:

“…if you feel insecure or threatened, you won’t [listen to facts]. This would also explain why demagogues benefit from keeping people agitated. The more threatened people feel, the less likely they are to listen to dissenting opinions, and the more easily controlled they are.”

Being a smug “know it all,” or communicating that the other person is an idiot or way behind the times, is certainly not going to make that person feel more secure.

Just something we might all want to keep in mind the next time we’re frustrated that people don’t agree with us on ed tech, school reform, or just about anything….

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

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