How Political Opinions Change

Philip Pärnamets,Jay Van Bavel 7-8 minutes

Our political opinions and attitudes are an important part of who we are and how we construct our identities. Hence, if I ask your opinion on health care, you will not only share it with me, but you will likely resist any of my attempts to persuade you of another point of view. Likewise, it would be odd for me to ask if you are sure that what you said actually was your opinion. If anything seems certain to us, it is our own attitudes. But what if this weren’t necessarily the case?…

Your Problem with Guns or Gays Is Not Political

Last month, I did something I’d done only once before: I went to a range and shot some guns. Lots of guns. All shapes, ages and sizes.

This is a very strange thing to do for a guy born British. Guns feature nowhere in British culture.


Accordingly, I was unsurprised by the reaction of my mother when I called home and told her that I’d had a great time learning about firearms and discovering I wasn’t a bad shot, even with a second-world-war Enfield. “That’s the last thing I’d ever imagine you’d enjoy doing,” she said to me. She wasn’t

The Mistake You Make In Every Political Argument

We’ve all been sufficiently frustrated by the gap between the values someone espouses and the policies they support that we’ve gotten into political arguments to help them see their error. Perhaps, if we’re more honest about our own motivation, we just reacted to get rid of that visceral dissonant feeling that “something that wrong just can’t be allowed to stand”.

And no doubt, whenever you do that, you lay out a clear, fact-based, logically consistent case for the correct view.

You’ve probably done it many times – and, if you’re like most people, you’ve changed next-to-no minds at all.


The Diagnosis & Treatment of Ideological Possession

 Jordan Peterson, the Canadian professor of psychology who in the last year has become North America’s most popular public intellectual, has spent many decades studying tyranny and its antecedents. As a result, he frequently warns his audiences of the unparalleled destructive power of “ideological possession”.

As someone who has long been writing about the threat posed by this all too prevalent epistemic disease, I am delighted to see the attention that is now being paid to it.

Ideological possession is to healthy political discourse as scientism is to science.

The most important thing to know about diagnosing

Purism Isn’t Principled in an Impure World

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Why the Perfect Is the Enemy of the Good

Margaret Thatcher once said that “politics at its purest is philosophy in action”. As someone who gave her name to a political age that represented a very clear break from what came before and fundamentally changed a nation – according to both her admirers and her critics – she may have earned the right to be taken seriously.

As a self-identified member of the loosely defined liberty movement and someone professionally concerned with political psychology and persuasion, I often find myself spectating arguments between those who take

How Facts Get Chosen and Minds Get Changed

 One of my recent articles, “The Mistake You Make in Every Political Argument” (Mistake) made the claim that most political arguments that seem to depend on a disagreement over moral values actually hinge on a disagreement about empirical facts.

Mistake was shared by thousands of people of all political persuasions because they saw power in its diagnosis of, and prescription for, our incessant talking past each other when it comes to politics.

That article was always intended to be the first of two. This is the second, and it answers the core question left unanswered by Mistake.