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Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds Hardcover – March 1, 2004

3.2 out of 5 stars 55 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Gardner, a psychologist and professor at Harvard, examines the factors involved in changing minds on significant issues, in politics, science, business and art. He identifies seven key elements, including reason, research and real world events, that are part of the decision-making process. Certain facets are more heavily weighted in some fields than others: "leaders of large groups often rely on the appreciable resources at their disposal but are buoyed or undercut by real world events," says Gardner (Frames of Mind), who believes this explains why a politician or a CEO will disregard advice in the face of larger issues and popular perceptions. To prove his theories, Gardner analyzes the behavior of several individuals including President Bush, Britain's Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, and South Africa's Nelson Mandela. Gardner doesn't limit his examination to politicians because he also believes that artists, writers, musicians and teachers can change people's minds. While the discussions and real-life examples are intriguing and do clarify Gardner's theories, the book doesn't fully deliver on its promise. Although Gardner does offer suggestions on how someone can influence others, he doesn't include a detailed prescriptive strategy for decision makers in the business world. Readers must draw out insights on their own, which, given the complexity of the material, may be difficult.
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"This quick, enjoyable read outlines Gardner's research and thinking on how best to convince others (or yourself)." -- CIO Magazine, April 1, 2004

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Product Details

  • Series: Leadership for the Common Good
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (March 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578517095
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578517091
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #680,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on November 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For well over 10 years, Howard Gardner has been writing books exploring many aspects of the mind - from how the mind creates, to traits leaders have. Following this path, he has now written a book exploring the phenomenon of mind changing. How do we do it? What plays a factor in it? Why is it so dang hard to convincce people to give up well cherished (wrong) beliefs for new (right) ones?

The problem is that we get only the vaguest of answers to these questions. As I like to say, the best psychology tells us most of the things we already knew (but may not have known we knew). This book follows suit. It might explain which of the seven "factors" (listed by the reviewer below) plays a part in different mind changing situations, but hardly eluminates beyond that.

For instance, in a chapter devoted to how politicians try and change our minds, we hear about Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (both iconoclasts who were successful in the end at mind changing). The explanation to their success in mind changin is that they were able to tell their story, their nation's story, and a vision for the country's future, in different conceptual language than their opponents (and convine us that their own story was better. That answer seems quite right, but I was hoping it would be followed by examples of how they did this - how they told stories different from their opponents, while gradually winning acceptance for them. Gardner hardly gives any.

Much of the book is like this. After he explains the general principles utilized in one situation, he doesn't bolster it with detail and example, but simply moves on to the next situation.

What it all makes for is a somewhat (somewhat!) interesting, but hardly revealing, book.
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Format: Hardcover
Howard Gardner is probably best known for his theory that human intelligence has at least 8 dimensions, each dimension requiring acknowledgement and development. His work is generally considered part of the 'constructivist' school of psychology, which seeks to correct various failings in the standard American philosophy of mind: behaviorism. For the behaviorist, scientist can only discuss measurable and repeatable phenomena. 'Anecdotal' stories are explicitly disqualified, with particular emphasis on 'privileged insight' of our own 'self'. This leads to a favorite constructivist joke about behaviorists, which Gardener quotes early in the book: "So the two behaviorists had just finished making love, and the first one turns to the other, and says, 'It was good for you, was it good for me?'"

Constructivism seeks to remove the straightjacket behaviorism imposes on scientific dialog. It holds that learners impose meaning on the world, and so "construct" their own understanding based on their unique experiences. I mention this to put 'Changing Minds' in context. Constructivism is far from 'accepted' among academics or the general population. Despite Gardner's claims to the contrary, most academics would argue his theories are non-scientific, anecdotal gobbly-gook. He fails to obey the behaviorist dogma about relying on probability and measurable phenomena, and should not be allowed any voice in 'scientific academia'. Without this backdrop of academic controversy, the book's message will seem oddly out of balance. Gardner's themes don't really emerge naturally for the reader. This occurs because his arguments are designed to address an academic milieu the general reader will not know.
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Howard Gardner is an education thought-leader who has changed minds at many levels - among his students, with educators and society at large. In "Changing Minds", Howard Gardner re-examines concepts presented in his earlier works - i.e. multiple intelligences, the "disciplined" mind, the importance of integrating ethics with instruction/leadership, etc. He then presents seven "levers" for changing minds and discusses their application at various levels of mind change (from societal to intimate relationships). As usual, Gardner has produced an important, well organized book supported with excellent real-world examples. Unfortunately, the book stops short of providing specific tools and techniques for applying his model for changing minds. Perhaps in a sequel, Gardner will share more specific tools and techniques that may be used to "map the mental terrain", compile and present convincing research, build resonance and breakdown resistance. (Those looking for more detail may want to dig deeper into the tools/techniques used in organizational development, team-building, leadership development and self-awareness.) Nevertheless, a book worth reading for the model presented and reminder that one must keep both the mind and ears open to effectively change others.
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I found the analysis of some mind changing examples much more instructive than the very general "7 levers." Even so, most of the analyses were still not detailed enough. I felt as though I had the view from 30 thousand feet and wanted a better view into the process.

There is a lot of good information here, but keep expectations moderate.
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