Ever try to convince a Donald Trump supporter that #45 is a speeding train headed off a cliff, with the nation in the caboose? It’s maddening, frustrating and incomprehensible. They simply won’t listen to facts, and worse, they don’t believe there are facts. Literally nothing matters except their blind insistence that Obama was out to take their guns, that Christianity is under siege, and immigrants in various shades of brown want their jobs.
And Hillary Clinton was a no-good woman, living large on the proceeds of the Clinton Foundation!
It’s downright frightening to learn that a new Post-ABC poll shows 36 percent of Americans still approve of Trump. That includes a staggering 82 percent approval rate by Republicans.
So we were somewhat encouraged by a study mentioned in the New Republic done by Brendan Nyhan from Dartmouth University and Jason Reifler from Georgia State. They conducted a study two years ago on how to change the mindset of the most intransigent person in a setting where convictions tend to be most resistant: politics.
Choosing highly emotional, push-button issues, they for example presented Republican Obama-haters with evidence that the Obama administration had increased jobs and stabilized the economy. This proved significantly more effective than by simply explaining the situation with words or the psych-babble method of building up their self-esteem so they wouldn’t feel threatened by conflicting information.
All of the visuals they presented were the very simplest graphics. The researchers found that our brains prefer visual information over words — it’s like speaking to the brain in its native language. That supports previous studies that show human brains devote more processing power to visual information and remember images longer. When what we see conflicts with what we hear, brains choose vision over sound. It’s what artists have always known. See a fascinating demonstration on the McGurk Effect here.
Nyhan and Reifler suggest that to change a person’s mind, it may help to include visuals to investors, customers, employees — and yes, political opponents — to inform as well as suggest. And keep the graphics simple. Stop talking and use pictures to persuade.
Will this work on Trump supporters? The latest demographics shows Trump supporters are not all the uneducated bubbas we first thought them to be. Nyhan and Reifler, however, think the best methodology for informing them is the same. When you do speak, also take a cue from Trump speeches by speaking slowly with a lot of repetition.
And get out your notebooks and start drawing. The next debates could be done entirely in children’s art.