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Agree and Amplify

 

Techniques General persuasion > More methods > Agree and Amplify

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When faced with an argument you want to change, and especially when the person believes very strongly in their position, do not argue against their argument or try to persuade the person that they are wrong and you are right. Instead agree with them.

Then amplify their argument. If you can, connect it with their beliefs, values and models. Taking the argument to its logical conclusion, even if this seems rather ridiculous. Ask them if this still makes sense to them.

When they start to back down or reconsider, do not dive in for the kill. Just give them time to reprocess their beliefs and ask them things to move them on, such as 'So what does this mean?' or 'Now what other ways are there?'

Example

Oh, so you think all dogs are a menace. I guess that makes sense. After all, they are little more than tamed wolves, and the wolf is always still in them. Perhaps we should have laws that they should all be muzzled. Or maybe just ban ownership. Is the right kind of thing?

Indeed, immigration does lead to loss of jobs for locals. And I guess that's not fair. After all, everyone should have an equal opportunity, and is it equal when people will work for less? What's going on there?

Discussion

This approach can be is a combination of the amplification principle and something akin to a slippery slope, where an argument is stretched beyond its natural limits. Another effect is that when you remind people of their belief and values, they think more reasonably and take a more measured approach. In particular, when we realize that our beliefs and values are not universal and do not work in all circumstances, we become more open to seeing things in different ways. Also, when we realize that it is possible for us to be wrong, our entrenched position becomes untenable and we have to move to remain congruent with our new way of thinking.

This is particularly useful when people have become polarized, taking opposing and entrenched views that are hard to change. Hameiria et al (2014) showed Israelis videos that related the conflict against the Palestinians with their deeper values. Then, rather than saying the conflict was at odds with the Israeli beliefs (such as the importance of a moral society), they showed them a video that argued for continuation of the conflict. A number of subjects responded angrily to the continuation argument. When this method was used in the run-up to the 2013 elections, attitudes softened and and almost 30% more subjects were willing to reconsider their position as opposed to those in a control group. Interestingly also, this shift in views persisted to another evaluation a year later.

See also

Amplification principle, Appeal to Ridicule, Slippery Slope, Polarization, Values, Universalism vs. particularism

 

Hameiria, B, Porat, R, Bar-Tald, D, Bieler, A and Halperin, E. (2014).

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