Changing Minds
The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds

by Howard Gardner

Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds may be Howard Gardner’s best book yet. Gardner has constructed a beautiful and elegant theory of how people’s minds change and how those of us in leadership – or teachership – positions can boost our effectiveness as mind changers. What makes Gardner’s theory so attractive is that it manages to be simple without becoming simplistic, and humane without sounding like a teenage self-help guide. Gardner claims our ability to change people’s minds rests on four factors:

  1. The nature and content of our ideas, as well as the nature and content of opposing ideas. If your opponent’s ideas are based on a stereotype, hope your idea can be stated as a story.
  2. The type of audience you’re addressing: large, small, diverse, homogeneous, or your own sweet self.
  3. The media or format in which your ideas are presented. Here, Gardner takes the opportunity to bring back his multiple intelligence theory in an entirely new form – as tools of persuasion.
  4. Tipping Points, which form the heart of Gardner’s framework. These tipping points are a collection of seven levers that, when appropriately adjusted, significantly increase the likelihood that someone’s mind will change. Gardner’s set of levers include:

Use of evidence, logic, and convincing categories or principles.

Use of information and relevant examples.

How effectively you hum along with the emotional needs of your audience.

Representational Rediscription
Presenting your ideas in a variety of formats and media.

Resources and Rewards
How effectively you are able to provide resources and rewards for those who come to agree with your beliefs.

Real World Events
Not everything is, or can be, planned. Sometimes events in the world make your ideas feel like a slam dunk. Sometimes events change the context and your lemonade turns back into lemons.

Analyzing why people resist or reject your idea and using the other six levers to find your resistor’s "sweet spot."

The real beauty of Gardner’s book lies in the quality of the cases he uses to illustrate the applicability of his ideas. Gardner calls forth a rich set of examples and many famous mind-changers, ranging from Darwin to the Designated Driver, from Margaret Thatcher to Mahatma Gandhi, from modified foods to the birth of Modernity. The book is cleverly organized so that its cases move from large to small scale, from changing the minds of a nation or culture, to leading the minds in classrooms, to seeking to change a spouse or partner, to confronting and clarifying the need to change yourself.

Two small deficits: first, there is, perhaps, a vague authoritarian slant to Gardner’s examples. Example after example shows us another leader and especially business leader who has changed the minds of people. The book might have profited from at least one example of people changing their leaders’ minds. Second, since so many educators buy every book Gardner writes, Changing Minds might have contained a little more advice about how teachers or principals could use the Changing Minds framework to motivate parents to support a homework policy, students to bring their supplies to class, or fellow faculty members to search out and make use of new ideas in education. Such omissions are minor when compared to the power and scope of this book – from perhaps our greatest living cognitive psychologist.

To learn more about Dr. Howard Gardner and his teaching, professional and educational projects, and other books and articles, please consult the following websites:

Howard Gardner’s Website

Project Zero (at the Harvard Graduate School of Education)

Harvard Graduate School of Education