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Trust and Persuasion

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We tend to think that we believe in a conclusion because of the reasons or arguments that support it (i.e. the conclusion). However, in general, I don't think this is true. We believe in certain things because we hear them from people that we trust. We are less convinced by things like science, evidence, arguments and so on than by the level of trust that we have on the those people who are imparting those information. The trust comes first, the arguments later.
 
I saw this video a few years ago but it popped into my mind recently. It's about how we form opinions based on trust. It's only 15 minutes long and I found it very thought-provoking.
 
 
 
The guy speaking is considered to be one of the most influential and brilliant psychologists in the world today (see this). His name is Daniel Kahneman. He has revolutionized the scientific study of decision making, and has helped lay the foundation of behavioral economics, which is an extremely complicated area of study. He has received every major award in the field of psychology. He has integrated many of his insights from psychological research into economic science. He understands how the mind works along with all its marvels, mysteries, and flaws probably better than anyone else. Khaneman is the author of the international bestseller Thinking, Fast and Slow.
 
 
In the first three minutes of the video, he explains to us the way we "know" things in the following manner:
 
Quote
There is no subjective difference between true and false beliefs, and there are many false beliefs. So we think we know many things that in fact are not the case. And this is generally true, and if you think about that, we are to some extent perverted by our idea that we know things through science. But in fact there are many different ways of knowing things. And people who are deeply religious and not particularly scientific, they know things. And there is no psychological difference between the way they know things and the way that we consumers of science know things. [...] The reason I believe in most of the things that I believe is that I have been told that by people I trust. And exactly the same is true for religious people who believe in things that scientists do not believe in and they believe them because they have been told those things by people they trust. And they know those things to be true.
 
At the end he reiterates the same idea:
 
Quote
We are much less reasonable than we feel we are. We have beliefs, and we have reasons. But we do not believe what we believe primarily because of the reasons that come to our mind. We believe what we believe primarily because actually we have been told to believe these things by people that we believe and trust.

 

That idea seems a little counter-intuitive but it makes sense to me.
 
Take for example how people started converting to Islam in masses when the Prophet (sallalluhu alayhi wa salaam) began preaching. He didn't have to give them logical arguments for the existence of Allah or something like that in order to convince them that Islam is true. People automatically believed what he used to say because they found him of a high moral character and trustworthy. They didn't demand any other proof or evidence in order to believe.
 
On the other hand, there were others who didn't accept his message even after witnessing undeniable miracles like the splitting of the moon, but again that was because of their lack of trust upon the Prophet (SAW) as well as their own arrogance, not because of lack of evidence.

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I agree with the overall point -- that persuasions are driven by deeper emotional impulses -- but I disagree that it's purely, or primarily, based on the level of trust in an individual that espouses a particular view. People are multi-dimensional, driven by many motivators. If persuasion were primarily through trust, we would all just carry carbon copies of our parents beliefs, as we trust no one more than them, but I do not believe that to be so. How would you explain conversion, and what have you, in your scenario? Basically everyone I knew and trusted was Jewish, so why would I become Muslim? I'm not saying it's some genuine/pure motive -- it's also driven by an emotion, not evidence alone. But it's not solely based on trust in an individual, either.

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Maybe we trust certain people more than others for different reasons.

 

How is it that Donald Trump says things which are factually "inaccurate" and "disproved" and yet his supporters still believe what he says? That's because his supporters trust him, and therefore facts and evidence have become less important to them.

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seems like a backward correlation. he has tapped into beliefs that many already hold (about democrats, clinton, immigrants, muslims, etc) and steered.

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I think this links with Owen's thread about our perceptions or with what/ whose lense we are seeing with. Also reminds me of this post on FaceBook that was an argument between two philosophers saying "I know that I know nothing" another argued, "well, you know because you *know* that you know nothing."

 

Knowledge of the self, knowledge of others and common sense. I guess we trust who we internalise and we can relate to and it doesn't have to be someone who speaks the same language, it could be a person with vision that aligns with ours. So say we grew up with moderate or liberal views about religion, but a person comes along with a new way of learning and seeing faith, then we would start trusting in that person. Cognitive conflicts usually happen when you're learning or "the Nafs" trying to figure out what info is trustworthy & what isn't. I think people will choose based on their emotions, beliefs and reasoning as been mentioned.

 

I don't think anything is truly original because we are guided or lack of it by our enviro and the people within it. But we can choose to some extent what people to be guided by and to learn from.

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