24 April 2011

On challenging beliefs

This post draws attention to:
...self-affirmation.[...] Basically, it goes like this: when your beliefs or world view is threatened in some way, you’re likely to respond defensively. However, if you are able to affirm another part of your world-view positively, you are likely to be less defensive in the first instance.
(It's not new--the reference [full citation in the linked post] is dated 2000--but it's one of those things you are unlikely actually to come across unless you search on just the right terms, and every researcher seems to invent their own.)

My personal terminology for challenging existing ideas is learning as loss, or "supplantive learning". A quick glance at the link (or an even quicker one here) will establish the parallels.

What I find interesting about the slightly different perspective of the research discussed here is the way in which it meshes with what I discovered empirically and even experientially about the critical importance of personal credibility when trying to teach people things which run counter to what they already know.

For teaching (adults) in the context of professional practice it is utterly critical. Self-affirmation seems to suggest a relatively weak effect of establishing common ground with someone over practically anything (as Robinson's musical taste examples show) which nevertheless grants you a hearing and overcomes some resistance. The issue in a professional context is not merely about some areas of cognitive agreement, but about whether you have ever actually been there and done that... (see the links below for examples).

"In my experience" trumps "research demonstrates". No contest.

Unfortunately experience may be crap...

See also (manually generated):
On credibility (30.10.10)
On credibility (25.2.06)

h/t David Robinson

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