How Can You Change Made-up Minds - Part 3

There is no man so blind as one who has made-up his mind.
— Brian Herbert
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When changing made-up minds, we looked at some Cialdini tools and the power of stories. Once you understand the foundations of persuasion, there are many insights from persuasion research that can help in specific practical situations. The book The Small Big written by Steve Martin, Noah Goldstein and guru Robert Cialdini is a fantastic source of ideas. The idea of the book is to share some small things that can make a big difference to persuasion. There are 50 short chapters each devoted to an idea supported by rigorous research.

For made-up minds, one interesting insight is: What small BIG can persuade people against the crowd?

Don’t spend time beating on a wall, hoping to transform it into a door.
— Coco Chanel

Peer Pressure

They describe research which shows what happens to the brain when someone reluctantly agrees with a group even though they disagree. The video below is a modern-day version of the Asch experiment where people in a group all claim a shorter line is longer than a measurably longer line.

Peer pressure forces the individual to say a line is the same length even when it's not. In the brain when someone disagrees with the consensus, the brain shows emotion. Which shows going against consensus is painful.

They found it's tough to go against groups that help define who we are and how we see ourselves: our social identity. In a simple example, in a letter reminding people to pay taxes on time, adding a statistic that said most people in the same postcode paid on time increased response rates from 67% to 79%.

They also describe some interesting research by Berger and Heath that investigates how people will stop a behaviour if it becomes associated with a group of which they don't want to belong. On a university campus in a popular dorm in exchange for a charity donation, they gave coloured wristbands and for a week monitored how many students wore these. After a week, in exchange for a charity donation, they gave coloured wristbands to members of a geeky dorm. After this, Berger and Heath discovered 32% of the popular dorm stopped wearing the wristbands. A powerful example of how much people are willing to stop a behaviour when it becomes associated with a group that they don't want to be part of.

Nothing he said could change what I think of you. I’ve had my mind made-up about you for a long time... and it’s all good.
— Richelle Mead

In further research, they found groups that help define who we are and how we see ourselves can work in two ways:

  • People can be motivated to match behaviours to groups they belong to (or want to belong to)
  • People can be motivated to avoid behaviours of groups that they don't want to belong to

One of the strongest motivators to disassociate yourself from a group occurs when the behaviour is public. So, when trying to discourage undesirable behaviours, we should try pairing those undesirable behaviours with undesirable identities.

How can we use this to change made-up minds?

Identify the undesirable behaviours. Check they are public. Can you pair these behaviours with undesirable identities?


For example, in financial planning, there have been many examples of advisers who are collecting trailing commissions (a percentage of client superannuation funds invested) for decades despite no longer providing advice each year. In the industry, if a financial planner says they don't have to get out of bed each day because they earn so much trailing commission they are seen as a superstar financial planner.

If we wanted to change this behaviour, we would highlight the best financial planners are trusted advisers and highlight some prominent examples. Then, we could start to ask: how can you be a trusted adviser when you take the money and give no advice?

It’s perfectly okay to make a decision and then change your mind. Being able to change your mind is the best way to find out if you still have one.
— William E. Lewis, Jr.