The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others
October 03, 2017
Tali Sharot explains how our inclination, and ability, to influence others is driven by our brain's chemistry.
We are all entitled to our own opinions. And, judging by our online behavior, we are very interested in sharing them. Tali Sharot shares the stats in her new book:
The fact of the matter is that people love propagating information and sharing opinions. You can see this clearly online: every single day, four million new blogs are written, eighty million new Instagram photos are uploaded, and 616 million new tweets are released into cyberspace. That is 7,130 tweets per second. Behind every tweet, blog, and uploaded photo is a human being like you and me. Why do millions of humans spend millions of precious moments every day sharing information?
We've learned recently that it may not, in fact, be a real human being behind every tweet, but that is beside the point for now. The answer to the question Sharot poses is buried in our evolutionary past, and it is being increasingly uncovered by neuroscientists. In her new book, The Influential Mind: What the Brain Reveals About Our Power to Change Others (released last month by Henry Holt and Co.), Sharot explains how this innate inclination to share is driven by our brain's chemistry, and in the burst of pleasure we get when we communicate information and opinion with others. Of course, it isn't enough to share. We want to be heard, to be right, to have influence, and to change people's minds so they see things our way.
But what exactly is the mind, and how do we change it? It's a heady question, in more ways than one, because the head is the physical space in which the mind resides:
Your brain created your mind, and so changing your brain will change your mind.
Brain science has been making great strides in recent years. So, if you want to know how to influence the mind, you should probably ask someone who is at the forefront of those developments. You should consult a neuroscientist. Tali Sharot is a neuroscientist. She tells us that there are seven critical factors in changing someone's mind: priors (as in prior beliefs), emotion, incentives, agency, curiosity, state of mind, and other people. Notice that facts are not on that list. We'd do well to understand that when we try to influence others, and in considering how others influence us—especially in an age with so many potentially influential messages inundating us every day. "Evolution is slower than technology," Sharot explains, "and the principal organization of of the brain has not experienced significant change since language first appeared."
Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts." And that may be true, but when it comes to influence, that may not matter that much. In fact, appealing to what's demonstrably true can backfire on you don' t appeal to the beliefs and feelings in the person you're attempting to persuade.
We tend to view our brains as a repository of facts, but they're more of a harbor for our beliefs, feelings, and emotions. To lead change, we must be begin there. The desire to influence others is embedded in our chemistry, and with a basic understanding of that chemistry, you will be better able to influence others and know what is really influencing you. To know more about influence, you need to learn more about the brain. You need to get yourself a copy of The Influential Mind.
We have 20 copies available.