392: Change Is The Path

A Thousand Things to Talk About
392: Change Is The Path

What has been your biggest shift in opinion over your lifetime thus far?

Show notes and links:


Full episode script

Today’s question: What has been your biggest shift in opinion over your lifetime thus far?

In the book Lamentation by Ken Scoles, there’s a quote that has long stuck with me – “Change is the path that life takes.” One of the things that is both incredibly heartening, and worrysome, and wonderful, and dangerous, about us is that we have the capability to change our opinions. And I honestly think that’s a very good thing. Very few of us are completely and utterly static.

In 2016, onn NPR’s Healthshots blog, Christopher Soto wrote:
“And while personality traits are relatively stable over time, they can and often do gradually change across the life span. What’s more, those changes are usually for the better. Many studies, including some of my own, show that most adults become more agreeable, conscientious and emotionally resilient as they age. But these changes tend to unfold across years or decades, rather than days or weeks. Sudden, dramatic changes in personality are rare.”

And that long process of changing our personalities and our opinions the others can have a big impact. In 2011, a group of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute created computer models for what the tipping point of social opinion change might be. Surprisingly (at least to me), their models found that no matter what kind of social web you might be dealing with, it takes just 10% of any social group having a completely unchangeable, unflappable, quote “committed opinion holders” to rapidly change the overall opinion of the society they are a part of.

How you talk about or engage with your opinions can also be a clue to what might be changeable. In 2016, researchers ran an analysis on Reddit posts on the “changemymind” forum, and found, among many other very interesting things, that how an initial opinion is explained can set the stage for how malleable it is.
“first person pronouns (“I”) indicate an opinion is malleable, but first person plural pronouns (“we”) suggest the opposite. Changeable opinions are also expressed more calmly and more positively, using words including “help” and “please,” and more adjectives and adverbs. Stubborn views are expressed with more excitement, and using decisive words like “anyone,” “certain,” and “nothing,” and superlative adjectives like “worst” and “best.”

That, however, is all the functional research. What’s more interesting, at least to me, is the what. What opinions have you changed? What might you change?

Please note: This episode script may vary slightly from the actual episode transcript