DQ: Once again they are Quinn's First Law, No undesirable behavior
has ever been eliminated by passing a law against it, and Fuller's
Law, You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To
change something, build a new model that makes the existing model
Here is Quinn's Second Law: What people think is what they do. And
its corollary: To change what people do, change what they think.
Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other
An Interview with Hobbs Professor Howard Gardner
Q: In Changing Minds, you describe seven distinct "levers" that are
helpful in the process of changing someone's mind (i.e., reason,
research, real world events, etc.). In your experience as a professor,
which of these levers do you think is most helpful in the classroom?
A: I think of the seven levers as seven arrows in a quiverâ"any one of
them may be useful for a particular episode of mind changing. For the
classroom and teachers in general, I think two levers stand out in
importance: (1) the lever of representational re-description and (2)
the lever of overcoming resistance.
Many of us fail to recognize that we are fundamentalists ourselvesâ"not
necessarily in regards to religion, but perhaps about politics,
family, or science.
First, the lever of representational re-description states that minds
are most likely to be changed if they are introduced to the new idea
or concept in as many appropriate ways as possible, which is relevant
to my theory of multiple intelligences. When teaching, it is not
enough to merely repeat a point over and over again. For example, if
you are teaching the theory of evolution, it is useful to enforce the
instruction with additional ideas in visual or hands-on support such
as diagrams, simulations, narratives, logical syllogisms or live
demonstrations (e.g., fruit flies).
Second, the lever of overcoming resistance recognizes that individuals
develop very strong theories and conceptsâ"often misconceptionsâ"about
the world when they are young. These ideas tend to become entrenched
early on, and teachers regularly underestimate the strength and
persistence of these formative ideas. Yet, unless these misconceptions
are challenged, students are likely to remain with these early ideas
or maintain them alongside the new and more adequate concepts. Thus,
the dedicated teacher must find ways to undermine these early ideas
and keep them from re-emerging.
Q: How is the art and science of changing minds related and important
to the goals of education? What do you think are the implications of
the conclusions in Changing Minds on traditional methods of pedagogy?
A: In the book, I talk about mind changing in six different arenas,
ranging from the leader who tries to change the thinking of his
nation, to a therapist who is working to bring about a new
self-concept in a patient. All of the arenas that I discuss are
relevant in education. After all, what does the president of a
country, or a university, or the CEO of a company do when exercising
leadership? He is trying to teach his constituents how to think about
important issues in a new way.
As educators, we are challenged to change the minds of individualsâ"be
they students, peers, parents, or our own supervisors.
One of the arenas that I discuss is that of the classroom and my ideas
about mind changing here are directly tied to education. But as
educators, we are also challenged to change the minds of
individualsâ"be they students, peers, parents, or our own supervisors.
In addition, we need to consider what it takes to change our own minds
about consequential issues. In the book, I suggest that fundamentalism
is a commitment not to change one's mind on certain issues. Many of us
fail to realize that we are fundamentalists ourselvesâ"not necessarily
in regards to religion, but perhaps about politics, family, or
science. While fundamentalism is not necessarily bad, one needs to be
aware of the areas where one simply refuses to change one's mind and
have good reasons for such tenacity.
Q: One of the major ideas in your book is that it is important to know
one's audience when seeking to change minds. What does this imply, if
anything, about teacher-student relationships?
A: As I mentioned, the mind changer has a number of arrows in his
quiver, and it is important that he selects the most appropriate ones
for a given situation. This is why it is important to know your
audience. If I am trying to convince a colleague to try something new,
I need to know whether that colleague is most persuaded by argument,
by research data, by rewards, by real-world events, by humor, or some
other form of proof.
Teachers need to heighten their awareness about individual students,
particularly when problems or challenges arise. But they also need to
know about the general properties that characterize students of a
certain age. We know, for example, that eight-year-olds are
creationists, independent of whether their parents are fundamentalists
or atheistic scientists. Presumably this is because eight-year-olds
are interested in origins, and the default assumption is that the
world was created at a certain time, with its requisite plants and
animals, and has never changed. Teachers in the primary grades can
assume that this feature applies to all of their students. However,
what might convince one student may well be different from what
convinces the others, something that blends my ideas about changing
minds with my multiple intelligences theory.
Q: While your new book outlines systematic and transparent methods to
improving the odds of changing someone's mind, are there other forms
of persuasion? Do you think there are dangers in using either
transparent or more subtle methods?
A: As a scholar, I am interested in all kinds of mind changes,
including ones of which I do not personally approve. I cannot only
write about the kinds of persons and examples that I likeâ"if I did so,
I would miss some of the most powerful examples of mind changing. I
faced the same problem in studying multiple intelligences and
different kinds of creativity and leadershipâ"I would not be able to
understand my topic well unless I surveyed a full range of people,
including those of whom I vehemently disapprove, such as Osama bin Laden.
As a citizen, however, it is important for me to speak out on issues
that matter. For this reason, I have occasionally singled out
applications of the multiple intelligences theory of which I do not
agree or approve. At the end of Changing Minds, I discuss what I call
"goodware," or the kinds of mind changing that I most admireâ"the form
in which individuals come to appreciate a story or explanation that is
more complex than the one to which they are accustomed. This kind of
mind changing enhances positive human possibilities. My personal
heroes include Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela,
and Jean Monnet.
For More Information
More information about Howard Gardner is available in the Faculty