Changing attitudes, thoughts or beliefs is not always easy. Who has not tried to show a valid political argument to a friend but he has refused to believe it? How many people do we know who we know is almost impossible to change their minds? It's more, The more logical and empirical arguments we offer, the more they tend to deny it and assert themselves in their convictions. But why does this happen?
Science has gone a step further and investigated which brain area seems to be involved in this inflexibility.. Even so, the fact of not changing your mind before a coherent argument but contrary to ours, may be more related to an aspect of identity and cognitive dissonance. Through this study it becomes clear that the brain is moldable through experience.
- 1 When the brain refuses to change
- 2 At the brain level
- 3 Fear of change
- 4 Final reflection
When the brain refuses to change
Andreas Kappes (2019), in an article recently published in the magazine Nature Neuroscience, ensures that their findings point to the fact that not even the most elaborate arguments have the capacity to convince the most polarized people, since the simple disagreement is enough to reject it. That is, when someone is in an ideological position completely opposite to ours, this will be enough to reject an argument, no matter how logical it may be. They discovered, in Andreas's words that "When people disagree, their brains fail to register the strength of the other person’s opinion, which gives them less reason to change their mind.".
The authors of the research affirm that we usually look for and interpret data in a way that confirms and strengthens our opinions. So that, The further away the evidence of our own beliefs, the more it will cost us to accept them and, apparently, the brain area that is involved in this mental inflexibility has already been detected.
Through magnetic resonance, the authors of the research they found out that the posterior medial prefrontal cortex came into play in relation to thinking changes. This brain area was activated when the subjects evaluated the confidence or the quality of the evidence presented to them, to subsequently change their beliefs according to the quality of the evidence. For example, if we hear a trusted doctor say that we need to start a treatment, our posterior medial prefrontal cortex starts up in search of the confidence that the doctor transfers and leads us to modulate our opinion.
The prefrontal cortex is what characterizes the human being. Thanks to it we can make decisions, control our emotional impulses, be rational beings, etc. However, it should be remembered that although certain brain areas can be activated with some behaviors or others, through our behavior we can change the neural connections. The brain is moldable, and as such, we have a great influence on its mechanism and development. In the same way that we train the body, we can also train the brain.
Fear of change
As the protagonists of the research claim, as well as social psychology, We usually look for clues that strengthen what we think. When we discuss a subject with which we feel more or less identified, if our forum is in an ideological position away from ours, we will most likely reject their arguments directly and almost without going deeper into what it says. Changing your mind is not easy, and accepting arguments against our beliefs either, since, in some way, it would imply accepting that our arguments may be wrong.
From social psychology we talk about commitment to our own behavior. The more committed we are to our beliefs through our behavior, the more difficult the change will be. As Moya and Expósito (2005) affirm, professors of social psychology at the University of Granada: "If I have committed to any action or thought, the most likely is that a psychological force will be generated in me that will lead me to be consistent with that commitment".
However, beneath this mental inflexibility, fear hides. A fear that makes us reject the different. If we delve into what our belief system can change, the consequence derived from it is a change. This change would imply a personal evolution, but for many it is perceived as ceasing to be who we are. We cling to a solid identity without accepting that life is a constant learning, a constant change.
We are very committed to our behavior and, in addition to that, we have built an identity on a foundation that we strive to be as fixed as possible. Rigidity gives us security, but that rigidity leads us to personal stagnation. Contrary to what is thought, mental openness to change brings mental wealth and great development. The maturation process, innate form, requires change. For a fruit to turn from green to its usual color, yes or yes of time and change is needed. A green fruit can be bitter, but a ripe fruit can be very sweet. So that, Well focused change, no doubt, can only bring great benefits.
Expósito, F. and Moya, M. (2005). Applying social psychology. Madrid: Pyramid Editions.
Kappes, A., Harvey, A., Lohrenz, T., Real, P., and Sharot, T. (2019). Confirmation bias in the utilization of others' opinion strength. Nature Neurosciencie, 23, 130-137.