The Power Of Paradoxes To Change Attitudes

The power of paradoxes to change attitudes

A paradox is a strange idea contrary to what is generally considered to be true. These are thought figures that consist in the use of expressions or phrases that imply a contradiction. There are different types of paradoxes that relate to logic, infinity, probability, physics or geometry.

Many of these paradoxes occur in our daily life even if we are not always aware of them; among these is the Monty Hall dilemma. Do you know him?

The Monty Hall Dilemma

The Monty Hall Dilemma is a probability math problem based on an American television quiz. In the quiz  the competitor must choose a door from a range of three, all closed. Behind one of the doors, there is a prize, a car; behind the others, there are only two goats.

When the competitor chooses the door, the presenter, who knows what is behind each one, opens one of the doors not chosen by the player and a goat appears. After that, it gives the competitor the option to change the choice on the designated port at the beginning.

In this situation, the guest has two options: change the door or keep his first choice. Should he be convinced of his original decision or choose the other door? Is there any difference?

Yes, there is a difference: changing the initial choice would be the best option, at least in terms of probability. Once the door behind which the goat was standing has opened, that passage must be definitively discarded, therefore its probability is equal to 0.

The odds that the competitor will pick the door hiding the car on the first shot are 1 in 3, while the odds that the car is behind the doors he does not select are 2 out of 3. When the presenter opens the door with the goat , that port ceases to be a valid option.

At this point, the 2 out of 3 probabilities are transmitted to the still closed door not chosen at the beginning. A common mistake would be to think that now the two doors have the same probability, that is, there is a 50% chance of finding the car. The choice made by the player at the beginning has a weight on the door opened later by the presenter, it is not a random fact.

If the competitor first chooses the door behind which the car stands, then the presenter can open any of the other doors and, if the competitor changes his decision, he loses the car. If, on the other hand, the player chooses a door that hides a goat, the presenter can only open one of the doors, that is the other that hides the goat. In this case, the remaining door is the one that corresponds to the machine and, if so, the player wins.

To sum up, if the competitor keeps his initial decision, he wins if he immediately chose the door with the car (1 probability out of 3), while if he changes, he wins if at the beginning he chose a door with the goat (2 probability out of 3). Therefore, the competitor must change his choice if he is to maximize the odds of winning the car.

The paradoxical thinking

Paradoxical thinking consists in explaining the absurdity of certain things that seem obvious. Such thinking can help change people’s attitudes. If paradoxes ridicule our beliefs, showing them irrational and senseless, we may begin to question them and eventually change them. Let’s see an example together.

A group of Israeli researchers carried out an experiment in a small town, famous for its high percentage of votes in favor of the political far right. Scholars carried out a paradoxical thought campaign with which they hoped to moderate the views of the most radical.

For six weeks, they subjected the inhabitants of the city to this campaign, which consisted in concrete of signs around the streets, advertising objects such as balloons, pins and T-shirts, and videos and advertisements on the internet. The messages of the signs and pins played with ideas and phrases such as “Without him, we would never be united … To have justice, conflict is necessary”, “According to the heroes, we probably need conflict”. The videos featured similar messages with associated images.

After that, inquiries were carried out to find out the opinion of the people on the conflict between Palestine and Israel. The results of the interviews with people who lived in a location where the campaign took place were compared with those of the surveys made to individuals residing in other areas not touched by it.

The people who participated in this survey were never made aware that it was a psychological experiment. The results showed that the perception of the conflict was similar in all but one of the groups: after some time, individuals who supported the far right and who had witnessed the campaign revealed a mitigation of their attitude of support for the conflict. .

The use of paradoxical thinking has had an effect on the beliefs and attitudes of right-wing supporters, who have expressed less support for aggressive policies and a greater propensity for conciliation policies. By making people’s ideas absurd, the warlike wills are moderated.

Main image courtesy of WikiHow

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