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Evidence principle

 

Principles > Evidence principle

Principle | How it works | So what?

 

Principle

I cannot deny what I see with my own eyes.

How it works

In our interactions with others, we often disagree and know that they will try to persuade us. If you tell me something, I can easily deny it, effectively saying that you are either mistaken or a liar.

Evidence, however, comes from outside the other person, which means we cannot attribute it to their person, and must judge it independently.

Evidence is particularly powerful for disconfirmation and destroying beliefs. If I find out about my partner cheating on me, all faith and trust are instantly destroyed. Such a change can cause a significant emotional response.

Uncertainty

Evidence is particularly important when we are uncertain. In these situations we go into an 'evidence-seeking' mode, where everything is questioned.

This is used in social situations when we do not know what to do we often look at other people to see what they are doing.

Modeling

If I want you to behave in some way, then if I act that way, I am providing you with social evidence. This is used by leaders, from wartime ministers displaying faith and courage to business leaders who embody new values and working practices.

Strength

  • Evidence can be weak or strong and its credibility may depend on its source and medium. If the evidence can be doubted or ignored then it will have less strength. Increasing evidence that aliens have landed might thus be:
  • A person asserting they have seen them
  • A newspaper report on the landing
  • Photos in the newspaper
  • A national radio broadcast
  • A broadcast by an acknowledged expert
  • TV footage of spacecraft
  • TV footage of the aliens
  • TV interviews with the aliens
  • Meeting the aliens
  • Going with then back to Alpha Centauri

Legal evidence

The legal system makes great use of evidence, testing each item and determining if there is a good case. It is played out in a court where hard evidence is the major player, and opinions, even of experts, are of secondary importance.
Disconfirmation is critical and one strong piece evidence can swing an entire case.

Scientific evidence

Science, even more than legislation, is based on objective and measurable evidence. A hypothesis is put forward to explain a phenomenon and then both confirming and disconfirming evidence is sought in a wide range of situations (thus showing where the theory does and does not work).

So what?

Gather evidence both for your argument and against other arguments. Seek objective evidence that cannot be denied. Look for things that will shake the other person's beliefs.

Deploy the evidence carefully and to a planned strategy. For example, you can use a full-frontal assault, battering them into submission with a powerful stream of incontrovertible evidence. You may also plan a longer campaign of attrition, wearing them down with doubt and systematic destruction of their arguments..

See also

Understanding principle, Theories about meaning, Using evidence

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