The science of flip-flopping

Aug 17, 2012

Mitt Romney Campaigns In Des Moines

Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

What causes Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and you or me to change our minds? Let’s assume that our political leaders aren’t just looking to pick up votes or campaign cash when they change positions on an issue. What causes a person with well-defined beliefs to make a change? A column in Sunday’s New York Times looks at the factors that cause us to change our minds.

The research shows it’s not a well-reasoned argument or the dispassionate presentation of data, but personal stories and emotion that cause us to change. And when it occurs, that’s not a mere flip-flop, but a genuine shift in belief.

What causes that to happen? When – and why—do we convince others to take up our position on an issue? Hint: it ain’t easy.


Timothy Wilson, psychology professor at the University of Virginia and author of the forthcoming book, Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change

Jonathan Haidt, professor of psychology at the Stern School of Business at New York University and author of The Righteous Mind

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