Tag Archives: neuroscience

Who Do You Believe?

I’ve been writing a lot about various aspects of traditional and self-publishing lately, and pointing you to the blogs of several other people who are in the camp that believes that digital self-publishing is a vital part of the future of publishing.

Obviously, I think these folks are sharing important and useful information or I wouldn’t be encouraging you to read them.  There are, of course, intelligent people out there saying the opposite, and often saying it quite eloquently.

So who do you believe?

We face this decision every time one doctor prescribes one thing, and a second doctor recommends a different course of treatment.  We face it every election. Climate change: natural cycle or man caused? Evolution or Creationism?

Who do you believe?

I recently read “Made-up Minds” an article  by Chris Mooney in the May 20th issue of The Week. (A longer version of the article is available here.) Basically, the article talked about how new discoveries in neuroscience have demonstrated “how our pre-existing beliefs, far more than any new facts, can skew our thoughts and color what we consider our most dispassionate and logical conclusions. This ‘motivated reasoning’ helps explain why we find groups still polarized over matters where the evidence is so unequivocal. It seems that expecting people to be convinced by the facts flies in the face of, you know, the facts.”

This certainly can apply to the debate about the relative merits of self-publishing.

The point is not to assume that whoever doesn’t agree with you is being emotional and irrationally refusing to accept facts.  The point is that we all are influenced by our emotions.  “Left or right, conservative or liberal, we all wear blinders in some situations.” New information that conflicts with our values (i.e. how we see the world and ourselves in it) is not easily taken in or acted upon. Is it really rational to “discard an entire belief system, built up over a lifetime, because of some new snippet of information?”  Especially if those facts are myths or half-truths.

Even with an avalanche of information people resist facts that contradict what they “know” to be true. There is still a significant percentage of Americans who believe that Saddam Hussein and al Qaida were collaborating.

Clearly, the only people persuaded by facts alone to adopt a new position are those who haven’t yet made up their minds or who have no associated emotional investment in the subject.  If you want to convince someone to accept something counter to what they believe, make sure to present it in a way that won’t trigger a defensive reaction.

Fortunately, the question of whether to traditionally publish or self-publish is not an either/or question. Both have their strengths and weaknesses, and both can have a place in any author’s career.


Filed under Life, Uncategorized, writing