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What Would it Take to Change Your Mind?

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Let me draw you a picture

Howard Gardner, in his book Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 2004) talked about the different kinds of intelligences he thinks exist. Dr. Gardner is a professor of cognition and education at the Harvard Graduate School, so he has solid reason to be espousing counter-intuitive theories of intelligence. Linguistic and logical-mathematical are two of the more primary and recognizable kinds of intelligence. And those two, in particular, are the focus of much our schooling.

But there are other kinds, says Dr. Gardner, including spatial intelligence, for instance, where one has “the capacity to form spatial representations or images in one’s mind, and to operate up them.” Sailors and airline pilots depend on this sort of intelligence, as do chess players. Or bodily-kinesthetic intelligence, where a person has “the capacity to solve problems or to create products using your whole body.” Artists, craftspeople, surgeons, dancers, football players, basketball players and many others work out problems in a very physical way.


Early in the book Gardner cited this important factor in changing one’s mind:

Presenting multiple versions of the same concept can be an extremely powerful way to change someone’s mind.

–Howard Gardner, Changing Minds, p. 16

I’m not yet to the end of Gardner’s full argument, but I suspect none of us are just one intelligence. We each have several (perhaps many) ways of knowing and depend on our different intelligences to walk through life. So hearing multiple versions of a concept may trigger something inside us that suddenly opens our eyes or our empathy. As advertisers well understand, presenting the beautiful woman next to the car or perfume bottle spurs an emotional leap that can bypass rationality. Words alone don’t do that as often.

My own daily experiments with drawing, though uniformly not up to par, have still showed a way forward with understanding. When stuck with words, I can switch to dumb sketch mode and begin to move forward again.

All this makes me wonder about the work we each need to do to find new ways to express those deep things inside that need to come out but have so far fallen on deaf ears.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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