Where is the scientific evidence that arguments change minds?

There is considerable scientific evidence that arguing with people about their beliefs usually has an effect opposite of what you would hope (assuming, generously, that you care more about the effect your arguing has on others than the effect it has on you). I’m sure that most of you have seen reviews of the relevant literature. In any case, I have not the least interest in arguing about the evidence that arguing hardens, rather than changes, beliefs. Why? I insist that, as obviously negative as arguments are, the burden is on the arguer to provide strong evidence that arguing is, on balance, more beneficial than harmful.

It would be entertaining to observe the arguing of the most compulsive of arguers that they actually do not argue. But let’s make that a wee bit harder for them to do, and require that, whatever they regard their not-arguing to be, they present scientific evidence that it generally benefits the people with whom they not-argue. And, no, I have not overlooked the fantasy that the benefit is to the silent Onlookers, and that you are their Champion. Either provide us with evidence that there exists such an effect, or entertain us with your Kairosfocus imitation.

51 thoughts on “Where is the scientific evidence that arguments change minds?”

  1. PatrickPatrick

    Mung: I guess I could go back to playing World of Warcraft. 🙂

    We could all get together and start a guild called “The Skeptics” I suppose. We could play and argue at the same time.

    But you’re right I think. I gave that up as a huge time sink and I’m not sure TSZ is much better.

    You may or may not be surprised to learn that I used to play a shadow priest.

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