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How to change the mind of the wingnuts - psychology

Rhea

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This letter was published at electoral-vote.com today, and it introduced some useful methods to consider whenever you are trying to persuade anyone, but particularly trying to persuade someone who holds untrue beliefs.

A.C. in Aachen, Germany, writes: Being into social psychology quite a bit, I very much liked your overview of the theory of cognitive dissonance in response to the question about why Trump's support is so consistent with his base. As the theory is so influential (more than 1,000 studies over the decades), I would like to add a few aspects and widen the scope of the answer.

You talked about how dissonance might be reduced, but I think this deserves a closer look. Festinger (who developed the theory) assumed that people use the path that requires the least change of affected cognitions. There are basically three ways to reduce dissonance:

Addition of consonant information, e.g. finding ways to support the decision (he appointed judges, cut taxes, owned the Liberals etc.)

Subtract dissonant information, e.g. weaken the notion that Trump is a moron (smear campaign, liberal hoax, witch hunt, biased media, ignoring or not perceiving facts etc.)

Change of behavior, which in this case would mean not to favor Trump any longer and probably not vote for him again.
Given the high level of commitment in a very polarized elecorate, it's plausible to believe that many voters will not chose the third path, as the number of cognitions to be rearranged would be quite high. It demands much less cognitive effort to follow the first path, the second path, or both.

That said, the theory also suggests that different outcomes might take place depending on what lines of attack are used during the campaign. It doesn't make sense to reach out to hardcore Trumpers; for them the change in the cognitive system is far too large. But independents, old-school Republicans and Democrats who voted Trump in 2016 might well be persuadable. For them, I think the challenge is to frame the message in an way that allows persuadable voters to change to the Democrats without having to change cognitions too much. "Trump is an idiot, you see it yourself, and we told you all along" would not do the job. On the other hand, something like "we understand that there might have been reasons to vote Trump then, but we got your message, we changed, its okay to vote Democrats this year." Of course, this messaging would cause dissonance for the progressive wing of the Democratic party, but there is always some amount of 3D chess involved.

V & Z respond: The term that many commenters use these days for this way of thinking is "permission structure," and it's clearly the basis of what the folks at the Lincoln Project are doing.


It would be interesting to discuss the psychology of how to break through the mind traps that people get themselves into.

"You can't reason a man out of a corner that he didn't reason his way into."
 

rousseau

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I largely don't think you do change the mind of wing-nuts, for a number of reasons. One of the bigger ones is that a major component of political affiliation is genetically inherited. That is our brains are often wired to lean toward the left or right. If we're talking 'wing' nuts, I'd guess it follows that those with a strong propensity for one wing are even more so genetically inclined. It's not something they've consciously reasoned, it's how they experience and understand the world.

Once you couple that with being dis-incentivized to change their mind, because all of their friends and family believe the same things, you're basically lost.

I may be the pessimist but if 'changing the world', 'supporting humanity' were as easy as making posts and talking on the internet, we would have solved the world's problems by now. To me the reality is that most of our political problems have roots much deeper than human epistemology, and it's a bit anthropocentric to think that we can control the arc of our own history simply by talking to each other. Maybe to an extent, but the underlying forces of history are much, much more powerful than anything we can do as individuals.
 

Rhea

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I'm thinking of it more from an academic/therapeutic standpoint. The goal is not so much to "change their mind" as to understand HOW science/experience/therapy would suggest is the most probably approach.

Then even if one does not wish to pursue to the end, one at least knows what will NOT work.
 

rousseau

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I'm thinking of it more from an academic/therapeutic standpoint. The goal is not so much to "change their mind" as to understand HOW science/experience/therapy would suggest is the most probably approach.

Then even if one does not wish to pursue to the end, one at least knows what will NOT work.

Well, in your letter the sociologist seems to be on to something - the more work one has to do to change their belief, the less likely they are to do so. Put another way, people need a hard, strong material incentive to do something other than what they've already been doing.

That leads into my point, I think, that there are generally more powerful factors than epistemology at play. The assumption that political orientations and decisions have anything to do with rational thought, and rational discourse, is far over-simplified, imo. Members at this very forum are a case in point - people who have been unable to see reason or change in any fundamental way for years and years. This is because their core beliefs, their core outlook, their core experience of the world, largely dictates what they feel and what they believe.

When Trump was elected it was largely because he offered conservatives a material incentive - beat down people of colour - and his opponent wasn't strong enough to beat him. When Obama was elected it was because he was a strong candidate, and people believed he would make their lives better. In either case I doubt that political discourse had much, if any impact on either outcome.

So I think if you do want to change someone's mind about something you need to appeal to their self-interest, and the incentive that you're offering needs to be a bigger factor than all of the underlying, pre-existing forces already at play. Unfortunately, people also have very little to lose by voting the same way election after election. There is basically no downside to not changing when your vote is one of millions, so to ask someone to fundamentally change their perspective is asking a lot.
 

fromderinside

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The further north I've lived the more liberal the socio-political environment. That includes ND/SD, Michigan, Maine, Montana and I-duh-ho. More partying in the south with less barn raising. Much more noes-in-the-air in the south with hate the new testament religion.

Observations of one whose been there done that.

Self interest is driven by temperature and humidity more than it is by principles or mores is my starting point.
 

southernhybrid

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I don't know how this could be a regional thing, since all of my black friends and acquaintances are Democrats and while most of my white friends are Democrats too, I do know that most of the white people in my town are Republicans.

I think political ideology has more to do with what one values or who one hates. Most Republicans aren't voting in their best interested these days. I say this because I have known many who were on SS and Medicare or worked in low paying jobs, but are hard core Trump supporters. My one "friend" who is a Trump supporter has become a true wingnut. I'm not sure that I can think of her as a friend anymore. We weren't that close to begin with, just both nurses who worked in the same place briefly. That and being female were about the only things that we had in common. She's also a conservative Christian who believes that if she keeps praying she will find a man to take care of her etc.

Last month we had a little discussion about the pandemic and such. She doesn't trust the CDC, or The WHO and she doesn't believe that wearing a mask or socially distancing is necessary. She thinks that China wants to kill all of us and the virus was developed in a Chinese lab purposely. It's too painful to think that an RN, who took all those science courses and who's work involves applied science, can believe the stuff that she does.The woman is poor, has to work part time just to pay her bills. She's on Medicare and her primary source of income is SS. Yet, she's a huge fan of Trump and Fox News. You can't reason with someone like that.

My sister lives in an. uppity little town in New Jersey. She really can't afford to live there, to be honest. She's a Democrat but she's told me that many of her neighbors are Trump supporters. Her two is all white. In fact, I seriously doubt that there is a single black resident in her town. So, why are all these white people so nutty? Are they racists? Do they think that Trump has their best interests? Are they anti abortion? I don't get it. And, I doubt you can change someone like that.
 

Treedbear

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Self interest is driven by temperature and humidity more than it is by principles or mores is my starting point.

If you mean narrow minded, unimaginative thinking is the result of an over-heated brain I think you're exactly right. In an era of global warming that's a problem.
 

bigfield

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Are swing voters even worth the trouble?

Each party is looking to increase their share of the vote, but they don't necessarily have to steal voters from the other party. They can pick up more voters from the massive pool of people who don't vote at all. Why bother trying to turn a self-identifying Republican into a Democrat, or vice versa, when you can recruit people who currently have no party alignment?

As the letter points out, any attempt to swing some votes also runs the risk of alienating supporters.
 

Shobha

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A lot of it is just in-group conformance. The group you identify with, and feel that you belong to etc, is the group whose ideas and philosophy you want to share. And this is not some average or moderate position. It has to be an extreme position, in order to differentiate you from the other groups. So even the borderline or moderate folks get polarised. It is just Us vs. Them and Conforming to Group norms. Just the context varies.
 

Jokodo

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I largely don't think you do change the mind of wing-nuts, for a number of reasons. One of the bigger ones is that a major component of political affiliation is genetically inherited.

The history of human migrations tells a different story.

Some of the reddest counties in the eastern half of the US are in the Appalachia region - in large part settled by settlers from the Scottish Lowlands. Some of the bluest patches are the very places where Polish and Irish Catholic immigrants make up a large proportion of the current population's ancestral stock.

If you know the first thing about European politics, you'll recognise that present-day Poland and Ireland are much more conservative than present-day Scotland, and the Lowlands in particular. Now, unless you want to claim that Poland and Ireland selectively saw the more liberal part of their population emigrate, and the Lowlands selectively parted with their more conservative denizens, you got a problem.

If you do claim that, I'd like some evidence. Actual evidence, not vaguely related studies that don't really show what you're claiming but make it seem somewhat plausible when coupled with a few additional assumptions you also find plausible.
 

fromderinside

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Yet if one goes vote by vote, neighborhood by neighborhood, generation by generation, one finds strong family traditions of political bent. Conditions in neighborhoods tend to persist for some time - generations - until new conditions arise.

I expect you are both right, wrong, probably irrelevant. Seems the intent of the thread is explore ways to change minds.

To that end I'd replace 'traps' with rationalizations linked to strong biasing influences. Certainly the very way I've constructed that implies there are mechanisms through which one routes experience. Mechanisms which hold important persona land community value in individuals which the founder of sociology,  Kurt Lewin, developed  Hodological space with which to work them out.
 

rousseau

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I largely don't think you do change the mind of wing-nuts, for a number of reasons. One of the bigger ones is that a major component of political affiliation is genetically inherited.

The history of human migrations tells a different story.

Some of the reddest counties in the eastern half of the US are in the Appalachia region - in large part settled by settlers from the Scottish Lowlands. Some of the bluest patches are the very places where Polish and Irish Catholic immigrants make up a large proportion of the current population's ancestral stock.

If you know the first thing about European politics, you'll recognise that present-day Poland and Ireland are much more conservative than present-day Scotland, and the Lowlands in particular. Now, unless you want to claim that Poland and Ireland selectively saw the more liberal part of their population emigrate, and the Lowlands selectively parted with their more conservative denizens, you got a problem.

If you do claim that, I'd like some evidence. Actual evidence, not vaguely related studies that don't really show what you're claiming but make it seem somewhat plausible when coupled with a few additional assumptions you also find plausible.

I don't even know how to begin to respond to this post. If you're interested in my argument, do some searching on political affiliation and genetic inheritance. Studies exist which link behaviour at an early age to political affiliation later in life, IOW a large part of the affiliation is not learned. Political identity is most certainly malleable, but largely fixed.

If this weren't the case we would see much more variation in how specific communities voted - unless you'd like to attribute that entirely to social causes (I don't).
 

southernhybrid

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If this weren't the case we would see much more variation in how specific communities voted - unless you'd like to attribute that entirely to social causes (I don't).

I agree to a certain extent but what people seem to forget is that race and ethnicity have a lot to do with how people vote as well. I live in a black majority town, where most of the white people, ( other than my friends ) are Republicans and most of the black people are Democrats. Imo, my black friends are more thoughtful when it comes to politics. They vote for the things that improve their situations. They support programs like SS, Medicare, Medicaid, women's right to choose, and reasonable gun control.

The Republicans that I know are usually gun fanatics, very anti choice, and even when they depend on social programs, they don't seem to take them into consideration when they vote.

The wealthy people where I live primarily care about lower taxes and limiting regulation. But, I also have white friends who have terrible family relations since trump was elected. For example, one female friend is a very liberal atheist, but her husband is a Trump supporting Christian. This last election has damaged there relationship.

So, how do we explain that? I live in a small southern city that has a large diversity of opinion when it comes to politics. Plus, too many poor people simply never vote. I know lots of them too. One of my closest black friends has told me that her two middle aged children have never, ever voted. I also know a poor white woman who hates Trump but refuses to vote and has never votes. What's up with that?
 

rousseau

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If this weren't the case we would see much more variation in how specific communities voted - unless you'd like to attribute that entirely to social causes (I don't).

I agree to a certain extent but what people seem to forget is that race and ethnicity have a lot to do with how people vote as well. I live in a black majority town, where most of the white people, ( other than my friends ) are Republicans and most of the black people are Democrats. Imo, my black friends are more thoughtful when it comes to politics. They vote for the things that improve their situations. They support programs like SS, Medicare, Medicaid, women's right to choose, and reasonable gun control.

The Republicans that I know are usually gun fanatics, very anti choice, and even when they depend on social programs, they don't seem to take them into consideration when they vote.

The wealthy people where I live primarily care about lower taxes and limiting regulation. But, I also have white friends who have terrible family relations since trump was elected. For example, one female friend is a very liberal atheist, but her husband is a Trump supporting Christian. This last election has damaged there relationship.

So, how do we explain that? I live in a small southern city that has a large diversity of opinion when it comes to politics. Plus, too many poor people simply never vote. I know lots of them too. One of my closest black friends has told me that her two middle aged children have never, ever voted. I also know a poor white woman who hates Trump but refuses to vote and has never votes. What's up with that?

It can be explained because political affiliation isn't completely genetic, it also has a malleable component which I hit on when I first posted in the thread. Above all people vote for what they believe is in their own interests. In the U.S. the Republican party is explicitly not a party for poor, minorities, so we should expect them to lean away from voting that way.

But if, for example, you held a theoretical democratic election in a majority-black country where sub-ethnicities weren't a factor, you would likely see much more variation in opinion, and much more consistency along genetic lines.
 

fromderinside

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Genetic outcomes are the outcome of random experiments. To suggest that political preferences are genetically determined suggests political preferences have been a thing for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years. I'm pretty sure authoritarian regimes of various sorts were the thing during late probably varying between strength and wit dominance during the hunter gatherer era. Mind really began to matter when agriculture came on the scene. Now we're moving into an abundance catastrophe capability era.

Do you actually think genetics is leading this evolution? Politics is a process where choice enters into social decisions. Social decisions are rightly likely to be common preference molded. However common preference changes with the weather, or any survival factor, literally. Such is not genetic determination.

Humans have been in a rapidly evolving mode for the last two million years suggesting continued stress on fitness. Constancy isn't among the things that cause genetic tendencies to vary. So any notion that such as politics, a fairly recent happenstance among humans, is driving choice seems a bit far fetched.
 

rousseau

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Genetic outcomes are the outcome of random experiments. To suggest that political preferences are genetically determined suggests political preferences have been a thing for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years. I'm pretty sure authoritarian regimes of various sorts were the thing during late probably varying between strength and wit dominance during the hunter gatherer era. Mind really began to matter when agriculture came on the scene. Now we're moving into an abundance catastrophe capability era.

Do you actually think genetics is leading this evolution? Politics is a process where choice enters into social decisions. Social decisions are rightly likely to be common preference molded. However common preference changes with the weather, or any survival factor, literally. Such is not genetic determination.

Humans have been in a rapidly evolving mode for the last two million years suggesting continued stress on fitness. Constancy isn't among the things that cause genetic tendencies to vary. So any notion that such as politics, a fairly recent happenstance among humans, is driving choice seems a bit far fetched.

I haven't claimed that political preferences are genetically determined, I've claimed that they're partially genetically determined. This isn't a personal theory, this is a topic I've researched, the literature exists. I'd suggest starting here.

Political orientation is obviously very complex and shouldn't be looked at along a single pole, like genetic predisposition. But if we're talking about how to change the mind of people on the wings, it is a factor. To some degree we're born with a specific neural configuration that experiences and responds to the world in a specific way. Our attitude, for example, toward people of other races, people in foreign cultures, is likely colored by our openness to experience, with obvious implications.
 

fromderinside

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Some things are irrefutable. Segregation, isolation, of groups produces differences between groups over time. NS performs difference analysis. Und zo weiter.

That these things are important to forming bases for political stance is also irrefutable.

Now if you are trying to say that within these structures there are genetic trends toward fragmentation (variability) of behavior within these features are we really talking about genetics? Or are we talking about the effects of other genetic influences on the expression of these irrefutables? I suggest these influences are transitory rather than determined, a part of adaptation in niches, rather than something transmitted across generations.

That is not to say that the power of basic tendencies aren't possibly changed overtime, rather they are found aschangeinother tendencies rather than in basic features of recognition and separation.

Such doesn't add up to partial genetic determination of political view.

You may disagree, but I think the following from Genetics of Human Social Behavior https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0896627310001376

make my points.

Politics
“Man is, by nature, a political animal.” —Aristotle

A recent review (Fowler and Schreiber, 2008)* discusses the evidence that some of our most cherished political beliefs and behaviors may have a genetic basis. Twin studies have suggested that liberal and conservative ideologies are heritable, albeit genes did not play a role in the choice of any particular political party (Alford et al., 2005, Hatemi et al., 2007)**. Further investigations showed that genes and environment jointly contributed to political behavior (Fowler et al., 2008)***. Interestingly, value priorities (basic personal values referring to the broad goals to which people attribute importance as guiding principles in their lives, e.g., tradition, benevolence, hedonism) have been shown to underlie political attitudes and behaviors (Caprara et al., 2006, Nir and Knafo, 2009)****. Recent research shows that value priorities are moderately (11%–38%) heritable (Schermer et al., 2008)*****.

(following is presented as a personal exercise)

* Biology, Politics, and the EmergingScience of Human Nature https://media.rickhanson.net/home/files/papers/Evolution&Politics.pdf

** Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted? https://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=poliscifacpub

*** Genetic Variation in Political Participation http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.168.1467&rep=rep1&type=pdf

**** Personality and Politics: Values, Traits, andPolitical Choice http://www.iowapbs.org/mtom/story/24493/oregon-case-jury-delivers-blow-government-lands-fight
and Reason within PassionValues as Motivational Anchors of Israeli Opinionon the 2006 Lebanon War and Ceasefire https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.n...maia7YjIwA__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA

*****Phenotypic, Genetic, and EnvironmentalProperties of the Portrait ValuesQuestionnair https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/474f/0909a7cb6e698f657240b1ed9c3878d101e7.pdf
 

rousseau

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Now if you are trying to say that within these structures there are genetic trends toward fragmentation (variability) of behavior within these features are we really talking about genetics? Or are we talking about the effects of other genetic influences on the expression of these irrefutables?

Yea that's a good way of putting it. A family of two conservative parents, and five children - I don't believe it's determined how all of their children will turn out, but I do believe that there will be tendencies after the fact.

So bringing it back to the topic at hand - if you're talking to someone who's devoutly religious, racist, traditionalist, xenophobic - these traits aren't something you can just explain away. Sometimes you can. But usually the behaviours arise from fundamental aspects of personality - people who are racist want to be racist, it's not a rationally chosen position.

Such tendencies don't guarantee political affiliation, but if we're talking an explicitly racist party there might be some overlap.

Similarly if someone is naturally empathic they'll lean progressive.
 

fromderinside

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Actually I'd look first at testosterone/estrogen and adrenaline levels to determine whether I should look to education and family as follow ups. Actually good squirt analysis is recommended for most behavioral pathologies IMHO and IMHE. Wingnut is subsumed under emotional extemesist by many.

BTW if one lives in a community dominated by bullies and they burn crosses in front yards being a racist is probably a very rational move by white males in particular. Invisibility helps.

Back in school daze during the fifties in Kennewick, a wheat town, it was easier being a racist since there were no targets living in town. Sure we had one black working in the hotel downtown and another as custodian at the cemetary out by our place. It helped with the hatred of people in neighboring towns of Pasco, a railroad town, and Richland, the Atomic City, which had sizable minority population, more than 3%.

A woman neighbor chased the custodian of the cemetary down 10th avenue, our street, with a cleaver. She was cut off by several men in the neighborhood, dad included, who took the cleaver from her and restrained her until the police arrived.

They promptly arrested the black guy for disturbing the peace. Yeah. He disturbed the police by calling out for help as the woman chased him down the street.

The same men who restrained the lady testified for the black man in court and he got off without further action. Kept his job too.

Now there's a rich learning experience and another bit of crud to throw into the tendencies chipper. In fact I hadn't thought about race before that event. I was 15 at the time, but things became pretty clear from that seminal event.
 

J842P

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I largely don't think you do change the mind of wing-nuts, for a number of reasons. One of the bigger ones is that a major component of political affiliation is genetically inherited.

The history of human migrations tells a different story.

Some of the reddest counties in the eastern half of the US are in the Appalachia region - in large part settled by settlers from the Scottish Lowlands. Some of the bluest patches are the very places where Polish and Irish Catholic immigrants make up a large proportion of the current population's ancestral stock.

If you know the first thing about European politics, you'll recognise that present-day Poland and Ireland are much more conservative than present-day Scotland, and the Lowlands in particular. Now, unless you want to claim that Poland and Ireland selectively saw the more liberal part of their population emigrate, and the Lowlands selectively parted with their more conservative denizens, you got a problem.

If you do claim that, I'd like some evidence. Actual evidence, not vaguely related studies that don't really show what you're claiming but make it seem somewhat plausible when coupled with a few additional assumptions you also find plausible.

Well, actually, you don't need to reach that far back. All you have to postulate is that in modern day people have been self-assorting into political enclaves. Which is actually happening. For example, if I were to draw a stereotype of someone from West Virginia, they would be very liberal, hippie musician types. Of course, that's because those were the sorts that left West Virginia to come to a city on one of the coasts.
 

fromderinside

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Fine strands are fine if they are strong like those of spider webs. J842P your thread is exceedingly weak not spider web-like at all. Almost no WVians came to any coast and the music you speak of actually comes from further south and west. Not saying your thesis is wrong, just saying that your example sucks.

I'm pretty comfortable with the idea of those able self sorting and and those not able staying home on the one hand. For those those dreading where they are I'm comfortable with those not able to survive where they are shifting to otherwise whether it be climate or income be driving reasons.

I'v always been guided by the tendency of those in the MW building shelters and systems to protect themselves from tornadoes whilst those in warmer southern climes being more likely to accept tornadoes as the will of God. Both groups ten to be conservative and God fearing, it's just that those who have to cope with cold seem to be more motivated to do something. Climate is a factor in some social behavior. Yet, politics and religion seem similar in both. For example On the left coast we've become used to recruiting engineers from the midwest and actors from the south even though both regions are based on farm driven needs for skills and capabilities.

It's when you get down in to the dirt of us versus them one needs to put dampers on the impulse to resort to such as genetics.
 

rousseau

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BTW if one lives in a community dominated by bullies and they burn crosses in front yards being a racist is probably a very rational move by white males in particular. Invisibility helps.

I should change my terminology. The behavior can be very rational, what I mean is that it's not necessarily rationalized, or even better - consciously chosen. This is the trap I think many of us fall into when we speak of changing minds. It starts from the presumption that political positions have been deliberated over in the first place, and aren't a product of both genetic and social forces.

The case of someone sitting down and deliberating over a choice using data and evidence is very uncommon. People have affinity to both liberal and conservative positions for a variety of reasons, I would argue that those reasons rarely arise from a full understanding of the positions themselves - on both the liberal and conservative side.

It's an important point because if you want to change someone's behavior you're not overcoming some kind of error in logic, you're overcoming the sum-total of genetic and social forces that lead to the position. If humans were fully rational and acted to the benefit of the species as a whole (they don't), then you'd just need to converge on people who believed the wrong things and talk to them for a while. Obviously in practice this doesn't work, and nobody really believes it can or else they would be knocking on doors rather than acting predominantly online.

To me Rhea's question frames the problem from the wrong angle - the question isn't how we change minds, the question is how we limit fallout from various political positions. For example, liberals typically do attain higher quality of life for their electorate, but liberalism taken to the extreme can cause problems - modern Greece, the USSR come to mind. Conversely, conservative thought taken to the extreme can also cause problems - the U.S. being the obvious example.

So the problem isn't so much convincing people to believe the right things, it's forming a government that doesn't allow the worst aspects of both liberalism and conservatism to be realized. This is exactly what we have in Canada. When there's a majority it can cause problems, but generally there is natural restraint on our parties who've formed government. In result Canada is somewhat centrist, and very well-functioning.
 

fromderinside

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OK I'm going to focus on two oF your points. Test. See if you can find them.

It's an important point because if you want to change someone's behavior you're not overcoming some kind of error in logic, you're overcoming the sum-total of genetic and social forces that lead to the position.

To me Rhea's question frames the problem from the wrong angle - the question isn't how we change minds, the question is how we limit fallout from various political positions.

So the problem isn't so much convincing people to believe the right things, it's forming a government that doesn't allow the worst aspects of both liberalism and conservatism to be realized. This is exactly what we have in Canada. When there's a majority it can cause problems, but generally there is natural restraint on our parties who've formed government. In result Canada is somewhat centrist, and very well-functioning.

You, the individual, are really up against it in most modern societies. Think about dictators and democracies with social elites. Change can take place there very rapidly. That is primarily because in societies the governed give control to others in order, primarily, to lead lives with few stresses. Even if this isn't entirely correct it serves for what follows.

Example: Life was becoming dangerous because of rising popularity in the carrying of knives in public in Mid 1800s England. Government wasn't working, police was failing, citizens were leaving the streets in fear of harm. However the upper crust became irritated in guests being assaulted at parties. So they established etiquette for removing knives from being worn at these gatherings. Well, nobody wanted to be excluded just because it was fashionable to wear knives at their party throwers shindigs. Knives more or less disappeared without legislation in months.

In dictatorships the fullf orce and power of government is at the whim of the dictator which leads to similar results. When too many citizens die from jumping off ten story buildings into snow banks in Moscow causing many gang fights about how the jump was monitored. If dear leader arrests everybody nearby very harshly and publicly the rest get the picture.

Point, what you hate isn't what people think and say it is that social norms often tend to let the aggressive have too large a megaphone permitting them to act out. What those who actually have power and sway over fashion and bravery and trust, and citizenship,need do is find elites or means to curtail such excesses. News reports. News does not need to report lies or accusations aimed at causing dissent and fear. One can speak all one wants,but the public microphone need not rebroadcast it. Currently in the democracies news has become for profits so normal pay collars aren't in place when 'leaders' refuse to lead. Rather these sources of information distribution are permitting publication of fear and lies into public discourse without the normal paywall commercials demand from spouting of them.

It's a mess up of the free press allowing influence from 'political speakers' in the name of profit to permit such toxic stuff. The people who spout defund this and that need to refine what they mean in simple terms that will engage people. It's about time we start hearing Policing is to serve and encourage safety rather than to militantly protect.

Finally, in conclusion, as a footnote, a final remark of two or three or ....

Mahar tonite opened up the problem of specific elites (leftist,democratic, intellectual, yada yada) becoming toxic as being a problem for the notion of managing social tone.

I agree. I think those who want to change the course of mood and discourse can manipulate moods through commercial means as the professional sports unions are now doing. We should use take a knee and black lives matter. We should emphasize policing is defusing situations, serving, providing community support, while military force is to be used only against our foreign adversaries.

No american, whatever her political bent, should never be the target of american safety and security forces with lethal or injury causing tools.

Naive, yes in the extreme only.

Almost all civil problems can be resolved with minimum force. I'm in favor of large 5 to 15 feet high loads of foam - fire retardant comes to mind - being unleashed on violent crowds. I would like to see sticky stuff balloons being launched into large crowds to stop foot traffic after proper caution have been issued. Get rid of batons. Issue instant glue guns permanently affixed to the officer to quell rioters. Nothing worse than a person with super glue on his hands getting stuck on himself or a friend ending his participation in meanness.

The riot control vehicle becomes peacekeeper clown cars and trucks featuring sticky, gummy, and foamy. Nothing stops a riot like an outbreak of laughter.
 
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Jokodo

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Genetic outcomes are the outcome of random experiments. To suggest that political preferences are genetically determined suggests political preferences have been a thing for thousands, perhaps tens of thousands of years. I'm pretty sure authoritarian regimes of various sorts were the thing during late probably varying between strength and wit dominance during the hunter gatherer era. Mind really began to matter when agriculture came on the scene. Now we're moving into an abundance catastrophe capability era.

Do you actually think genetics is leading this evolution? Politics is a process where choice enters into social decisions. Social decisions are rightly likely to be common preference molded. However common preference changes with the weather, or any survival factor, literally. Such is not genetic determination.

Humans have been in a rapidly evolving mode for the last two million years suggesting continued stress on fitness. Constancy isn't among the things that cause genetic tendencies to vary. So any notion that such as politics, a fairly recent happenstance among humans, is driving choice seems a bit far fetched.

I haven't claimed that political preferences are genetically determined, I've claimed that they're partially genetically determined. This isn't a personal theory, this is a topic I've researched, the literature exists. I'd suggest starting here.
You did however opine that changing the minds of "wingnuts" is pretty much a futile exercise, and stated the genetic component of political affiliation as a major reason for this belief of yours. This conclusion doesn't follow from the premise of a partial genetic determination - only from a near complete one.

Claiming it does is like claiming that preventive medicine is useless because health in old age is partially genetic.
 

rousseau

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The riot control vehicle becomes peacekeeper clown cars and trucks featuring sticky, gummy, and foamy. Nothing stops a riot like an outbreak of laughter.

Thanks for the post, interesting read.

I'm a believer in historical determinism, for the most part. I recall reading once that human history is a subset of ecological history, and I think that pretty much nails it. The condition of most countries in 2020 can be traced back to the rise of Europe (which was mostly environmental), and the region's own environmental situation in recent history (a few hundred years). There's something a bit anthropocentric about the belief that we can log on to Facebook and influence the world with any significance. Certainly we have influence, but the major forces of the world are so much more powerful, and have so much more inertia, that I think the overtly political may need a bit of a reality check.

Even if we accept that large segments of people do enact change sometimes, if we extract ourselves as an individual, such movements likely would have happened anyway in response to other events. Point being that there is a mental benefit to letting go of responsibility for the world. For the most part, what's going to happen is going to happen anyway, and we're only causing ourselves angst with the delusion that we can do anything.

To me political conversation happens anyway because a) we have too much energy to burn and b) it still benefits those taking part in a number of ways. There is no real motive to look at 'changing minds' objectively, because people like playing the game.

So to tie back to your post, I think we mostly just need to ride the wave of the period we're born in. At any point in history there has been problems, at any point in the future there will be problems, and we can try to chip in a bit, but I think history being largely determined relieves a bit of pressure and stress from one's life. I see so many people drive themselves crazy with anxiety and fear, and it's really needless. Just let go and enjoy the world one finds oneself in.
 

Torin

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Here's my standard short spiel about how to persuade people of stuff:

If the person you're talking to is honest, there is some set of concerns that lead them to hold the position they do. These need to be addressed in order to change their mind, and to address them, you need to know what they are. Therefore, the first step in changing someone's mind should usually be to ask them a lot of questions about what they believe and why, and to listen very carefully to the answers.

Once you've done that for a while, hopefully you will have figured out what the person's concerns are. At this point you are going to present the case for your alternative position (uh, you do have a case, right?) in a way that is targeted at the specific concerns that lead that specific person to hold the position they do.

If your case addresses their concerns fully, and they're honest, they will probably change their mind.
 

ideologyhunter

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If your case addresses their concerns fully, and they're honest, they will probably change their mind.

In the case of our right wing, they have convinced themselves since the 60s that the media is always biased against them (starting heavily in the Goldwater era), constitutes a liberal elite (starting in the Reagan era), and are simply liars spinning false narratives every day (starting heavily in the era of "The press is the enemy of the people!")
They've gaslit themselves. They've reached the tipping point of irrationality where no evidence of Trump's zany theories and lies can get through. At its worst, this distancing from reality leads to the QAnon phenomenon, but there's plenty more in social media where Q came from.

Sure, there are extemists on the left. However, I fail to see anything on the left equivalent to a movement leader saying, as the Pres did this week, that the only way "they can take this away from us" (i.e., a Nov. victory) is "by rigging the election." (When we talk about rigging the elections, it's based on what DeJoy has actually been doing for the last two months.) I fail to see any statements on covid as illogical and counterproductive as the stuff Trump has handed us. And there is nothing on the landscape right now as vile and lunatic as the plague of QAnon, which actually accuses the elite left of running child sex rings and eating children. This has reached the merchandizing level among Trumpies -- it may be a minority, but it's not miniscule.
 

lpetrich

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I like this, so I'll quote it in full.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Wikiquote
So the way I have conversations with people of opposing beliefs is I don't try to convince them of anything. So that's the first step trying to win people over. Stop trying to enter a conversation thinking that you're gonna like aah-ha them into changing their mind. I think that you know, we've kind of lost the art of conversation. So when I enter a conversation with someone I actually try to learn more about where they're coming from. Like I try I actually use it as an experience... let's say I'm talking to someone who's saying something really racist and they don't even realize that they're saying something really racist. I ask some questions because I'm interested. I'm fascinated by that. How does that work, you know? I don't do it in a way that's like mocking but I ask questions. We have to learn to really disarm ourselves in these conversations. First of all because we approach them with so much hostility and they get mad and we get mad and all of these things and so part of it is like emotional work and The second part of it is intention. Like what are you trying to get out of this conversation? And if you're just trying to argue with someone, it's not gonna work You know, you believe what you believe they believe what they believe. So I think the thing that we have to do is try to have a good faith interaction of trying to learn more about where the other person comes from because often what I find, is that when I do win people over It's almost never in the conversation itself that I've won someone over. Its that I have a conversation with someone, I asked them some critical questions and I calmly explained to them: well, this is where I'm coming from and this is why I believe what I believe why do you believe what you believe? And you kind of like leave the conversation but very often that person will sit on what you said and they will sit on the fact that you respected them and gave them space and then very often I've had interactions like that and I'll run into that person again a week later a month later and they said you know what? You said something that I really thought about and I changed my mind...But if you rush in, you know fully-armored up, attacking them and making them feel defensive they will never listen to anything that you have to say. So it's really about learning how how we can have a conversation again.

Alexandria Ocasio Cortez SXSW 2019, Youtube (10, March 2019)
In short, don't try to rhetorically beat people into submission, and don't expect to have some rhetorical triumph.
 

Rhea

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This topic came up today in the letters section of the blog electoral-vote.com .

To wit:
B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: When interacting with members of a different political persuasion, it may be helpful to keep in mind a comment from one of this site's more conservative readers that being told what to do will merely make him feel defensive and dig in his heels. As a health care provider, much of what I do is to try to encourage behavior change. Whether getting a patient to quit smoking, to eat a more balanced diet, or simply to take their medicines, behavior change is at the heart of all these healthcare strategies. And yet nowhere in medical school was I ever taught how to bring behavior change about. There is perhaps a naïve notion that simply explaining to a patient the health risks associated with their current behavior will bring about an "Aha!" moment and you will have made a convert for life. This does not happen.

Whenever you tell a patient "You should..." or "You must..." you will immediately cause them to become defensive and dig in their heels. More success can be obtained with a technique called Motivational Interviewing, and I recommend reading Motivational Interviewing: Helping People Change by William R .Miller and Stephen Rollnick. The idea is that rather than telling someone what behavior they must adopt, you ask them a series of questions that allows them to come to that conclusion themselves. With smoking, it usually follows along the lines of "Can you tell me some of the health risks associated with smoking? What do you suppose you could do to avoid those risks? How would you go about making those changes? Are there any specific barriers or obstacles that stand in your way?" Occasionally you will run into patients who insist that there are no health risks associated with smoking, at which point you note down that they are in the pre-contemplative phase of change and that prescribing nicotine patches will be a waste of time.

In politics, I imagine the conversation would usually follow along the lines of "Can you tell me what issues are of importance to you? Are there any policy changes that you think might bring about improvement?" If they propose something that seems outlandish, then you might follow with "That is an interesting suggestion. What would it take to convince you that might not work?" Directly challenging a belief system is not likely to be productive, but by encouraging someone to challenge their own beliefs, you might stand a chance.

I suspect that the large current interest in conspiracy theories stems from the American myth that with sufficient hard work, anyone can become successful. Members on the fringe know that they are working hard and deserve to succeed, therefore if they do not then it must be because a conspiracy is working against them.

I found this to be an interesting and useful insight, especially the bold example conversation. This continues to be an area of interest for me, and I think I'll get that book. Indeed, having these kinds of conversations can help the questioner as well as the questioned.

There ARE ways to get a real discussion to happen, and to engage people in ways to actually "do the research", but they may not be easy.
 

skepticalbip

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How to change the mind of the wingnuts
Wingnuts, right, left, or just weird, are beyond reasoning so discussion will not change their mind. Anything said that does not mesh with their fixed mindset will just be ignored. Note; if someone thinks of anyone who disagrees with them is a wingnut then that is an indication that they are the one who is the wingnut.

However, those who simply hold differing opinions can change through reasoned discussion, including the one trying to 'teach the other correct thoughts'.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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There ARE ways to get a real discussion to happen, and to engage people in ways to actually "do the research", but they may not be easy.
Human history is not one of democracy. It's a history of monarchy and suppression, war and violence. Democracy and reasoned objectives wherein people see other persons and groups as equals isn't our legacy. We don't share common goals. Rather we're fearful to the point of aggression, just like most dogs.

We're no more rational with one another than our canine brethren are with their canine brethren. We like to dominate and exploit the weak and only tolerate them if it serves our selfish purposes. If we can get an advantage on someone we take it because that's how we evolved to this point. We like to think we're GORT but GORT wasn't selfish and delusional, just a fictional machine that was about its program.

Human groups need common goals, and sometimes the common goal is nothing more noble than a common enemy or a common threat, not terribly proactive behavior for the allegedly most intelligent species on the planet.

I wish it were different but I think that's a fair reading of where we are.
 

steve_bank

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I believed the term for the left is Moonbat.

The question is more general. How does culture evolve? The idea that centuries of human cultural inertia is goung to e magicaly changed in a short time is fanciful.

Demonizing one side only reinforces beliefs.

In a recent commercial I watched there was a racial mix of people presented I a positive light. In the long run that is what will bring about change.

It is a marketing problem.

Today there is media witch hunt that is ferreting out all and any speech and behavior of the right that can possibly be made to seem racial and biased. That only reinforces the right's belief that the left is out to get them personally and denying them liberty.
 

untermensche

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The real left is about rationality combined with natural human empathy.

Anybody who isn't a crazed right winger is thought of as being on the left but the left is not just about caring whether you are rational or not.

The right today in the US is mostly about narcissism and a lack of natural empathy.
 

Loren Pechtel

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You probably need something along the lines of a railgun or Thor system to crack their thick skulls.
 

steve_bank

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If things had gone differently our president might have become the keeper of the Holy Hammer.
 

southernhybrid

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I was going to start a new thread, but decided that what I was considering might fit in with this older thread. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that we don't change minds by attacking each other. Sadly, social media allows us to do too much of that, imo.

Some of you might have heard of the Black guy who convinced a very large number of former members of the KKK to leave the Klan and start seeing Black people in a positive way. I guess if KKK members can be persuaded to leave the Klan, perhaps we can convince right wing extremists to consider some of their positions are harmful to them and to others.


it's common to feel that a right win conservative or a racist isn't going to listen to a bleeding heart liberal. I get that, but I'm linking an interview where Davis explains how he's convinced so many Klan members into leaving the Klan.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/26/opinion/racism-politics-daryl-davis.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage


I’ve wondered about persuasion strategies, too, because I have friends who have their pro-Trump or anti-vaccine biases validated every evening by Tucker Carlson. So I reached out to an expert at changing minds.

Daryl Davis, 63, is a Black musician with an unusual calling: He hangs out with Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis and chips away at their racism. He has evidence of great success: a collection of K.K.K. robes and hoods given him by people whom he persuaded to abandon the Klan.

His odyssey arose from curiosity about racism, including about an attack he suffered. When Davis was 10 years old, he says, a group of white people hurled bottles, soda cans and rocks at him.


I think other posters should be able to read the entire article, but I'll post some quotes from it just in case.

Davis began to work on answers after he graduated from Howard University and joined a band that sometimes played in a Maryland bar that attracted white racists. Davis struck up a friendship with a K.K.K. member, each fascinated by the other, and the man eventually left the K.K.K., Davis said.

One of Davis’s methods — and there’s research from social psychology to confirm the effectiveness of this approach — is not to confront antagonists and denounce their bigotry but rather to start in listening mode. Once people feel they are being listened to, he says, it is easier to plant a seed of doubt.


Davis claims to have persuaded some 200 white supremacists to leave the Klan and other extremist groups. It’s impossible to confirm that number, but his work has been well documented for decades in articles, videos, books and a TED Talk. He also has a podcast called “Changing Minds With Daryl Davis.”

“Daryl saved my life,” said Scott Shepherd, a former grand dragon of the K.K.K. “Daryl extended his hand and actually just extended his heart, too, and we became brothers.” Shepherd ended up leaving the Klan and gave his robes to Davis.

Davis’s approach seems out of step with modern sensibilities. Today the more common impulse is to decry from a distance.

Anyway, since Davis has been so successful in gently convincing Klan members to leave the Klan and give him their old Klan paraphernalia, maybe the best or only way of convincing those with extreme/hateful ideologies to consider change, is by listening to them, and then giving them some positive reasons to change.

I've never tried this, and I only have one friend who is a Fox News addict, who voted for Trump. We've just never discussed politics or religion. I don't think she wants to. Has anyone here tried the methods that Davis has used to try and convince a friend or family member that they are going in the wrong direction? Did it work? Would you feel comfortable doing what Davis did? I think the only way to heal division is to listen to the other person and avoid judging that person harshly. I'm not claiming this always works, but it must be better than yelling in their faces or telling them they are nuts etc.

If the following quote is true, maybe there is hope.

“Daryl Davis demonstrates that talking face-to-face with your ideological opponents can motivate them to rethink their views,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “He’s an extraordinary example of what psychologists have repeatedly shown with evidence: In over 500 studies, interacting face-to-face with an out-group reduced prejudice 94 percent of the time.


So, who wants to try and convince MTG that she needs to rethink her ideology? ;) Would it be possible for AOC and MTG to ever compromise while they serve time in Congress? Okay. I'm kidding about that one, but if Davis could convince many Klan leaders to give up the Klan, maybe anything is possible when people sit down and try to understand each other, that is assuming the person isn't suffering from a mental illness or brain disorder like I prefer to call it.
 

rousseau

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I was going to start a new thread, but decided that what I was considering might fit in with this older thread. One thing I'm pretty sure of is that we don't change minds by attacking each other. Sadly, social media allows us to do too much of that, imo.

Some of you might have heard of the Black guy who convinced a very large number of former members of the KKK to leave the Klan and start seeing Black people in a positive way. I guess if KKK members can be persuaded to leave the Klan, perhaps we can convince right wing extremists to consider some of their positions are harmful to them and to others.


it's common to feel that a right win conservative or a racist isn't going to listen to a bleeding heart liberal. I get that, but I'm linking an interview where Davis explains how he's convinced so many Klan members into leaving the Klan.

https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/26/opinion/racism-politics-daryl-davis.html?action=click&module=Opinion&pgtype=Homepage





I think other posters should be able to read the entire article, but I'll post some quotes from it just in case.




Davis claims to have persuaded some 200 white supremacists to leave the Klan and other extremist groups. It’s impossible to confirm that number, but his work has been well documented for decades in articles, videos, books and a TED Talk. He also has a podcast called “Changing Minds With Daryl Davis.”

“Daryl saved my life,” said Scott Shepherd, a former grand dragon of the K.K.K. “Daryl extended his hand and actually just extended his heart, too, and we became brothers.” Shepherd ended up leaving the Klan and gave his robes to Davis.

Davis’s approach seems out of step with modern sensibilities. Today the more common impulse is to decry from a distance.

Anyway, since Davis has been so successful in gently convincing Klan members to leave the Klan and give him their old Klan paraphernalia, maybe the best or only way of convincing those with extreme/hateful ideologies to consider change, is by listening to them, and then giving them some positive reasons to change.

I've never tried this, and I only have one friend who is a Fox News addict, who voted for Trump. We've just never discussed politics or religion. I don't think she wants to. Has anyone here tried the methods that Davis has used to try and convince a friend or family member that they are going in the wrong direction? Did it work? Would you feel comfortable doing what Davis did? I think the only way to heal division is to listen to the other person and avoid judging that person harshly. I'm not claiming this always works, but it must be better than yelling in their faces or telling them they are nuts etc.

If the following quote is true, maybe there is hope.

“Daryl Davis demonstrates that talking face-to-face with your ideological opponents can motivate them to rethink their views,” said Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. “He’s an extraordinary example of what psychologists have repeatedly shown with evidence: In over 500 studies, interacting face-to-face with an out-group reduced prejudice 94 percent of the time.


So, who wants to try and convince MTG that she needs to rethink her ideology? ;) Would it be possible for AOC and MTG to ever compromise while they serve time in Congress? Okay. I'm kidding about that one, but if Davis could convince many Klan leaders to give up the Klan, maybe anything is possible when people sit down and try to understand each other, that is assuming the person isn't suffering from a mental illness or brain disorder like I prefer to call it.
I'm with you on this and it sounds part and parcel to some of the arguments you've made in the past about free will.

For the most part if our beliefs are already working for us there is no incentive to change or re-think what we believe. When people attack our beliefs we get defensive because it challenges our self interest. But when we're given the opportunity for respectful self reflection we're more likely to learn something new.

There is a term in software development called 'rubber duck debugging' where you talk about a problem with an inanimate object and the solution ends up revealing itself. It's the same idea - an opportunity to actually pause and reflect. How often does almost anyone do that?
 
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