As Americans tune in this week to the public impeachment hearings in Congress, polls are split closely between people who support the impeachment process (49 percent) and people who do not (46 percent).
In an opinion piece in Politico, Peter T. Coleman, Professor of Psychology & Education and Director of TC’s Morton Deutsch International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution (MD-ICCCR), considers whether the hearings will change any minds. Psychological research “suggests no … well, maybe … and yes,” Coleman writes.
Coleman’s piece, “Can the Impeachment Hearings Actually Change Anyone’s Mind?”, is posted on the Politico magazine’s website.
Polling research suggests that one-third of the voting public are locked into their respective “pro” or “con” positions and not likely to change their minds. They are likely instead to selectively focus on information that confirms their firmly held opinions and to dismiss evidence that disproves them.
But even those with diametrically opposite opinions might be convinced to change their minds, Coleman writes. Although strongly held, self-defining beliefs do not change incrementally or slowly over time, they can change—and when they do, it’s a dramatic shift from one extreme position to another.
“Over time, when we are exposed to information contradicting our attitudes, that information—even if we ignore, discount or deny it—can seep into our thinking and accumulate to a point where... people radically change their views to the opposite side of the spectrum. In other words, nothing much changes until everything changes.”