If you’ve ever tried to change someone’s mind but found they were completely unwilling to budge in their thinking, it can help to understand how the brain works. Changing your mind—or someone else’s—is a complex process done through assimilation or accommodation, says David McRaney, author of How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion and host of the science podcast You Are Not So Smart.
“When the brain is confronted with novel information that generates cognitive dissonance, we tend to assuage that conflict by either updating our interpretations information or updating the models of reality that we generated to make sense of it,” he says.
Assimilation is when the brain takes the new information and fits it into an existing model in the brain. Accommodation is when we acknowledge that our existing model is incomplete or incorrect. The brain updates the model so that the novel information is no longer an anomaly but a new layer of understanding
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