(Article published in the Aug 25,2004 issue of TODAY, Business Section)
Dr. Howard Gardner comes to town this coming February, President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo will have an excellent opportunity, during the courtesy
call that his hosts are arranging for him, to pick up a tip or two on what
to do in order to get our countrymen to cast away the current mood of
national helplessness and rally this country effectively against the
problems besetting it.
Gardner is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, a theory
that challenges the idea that there is only one human intelligence and
such intelligence is measured by what we know as the IQ test.
Last year, after writing 18 books and several hundred articles,
this multi-awarded and distinguished Harvard Professor wrote “Changing
Minds” which explores the art and science of changing minds of
people, others as well as ourselves.
Minds, Dr. Garner identifies (a) the various agents and agencies
of mind change; (b) the tools they have at their disposal, and (3) the
seven factors that help determine whether they succeed or not. In the
process, he demonstrates the power of his cognitive based approach to the
study of the mind in contrast with the other approaches, such as those
based on biological factors or on cultural or historical determinants.
Chapter 4 ought to be of particular interest to the national
leadership because in that chapter, the book focuses on how leaders of
diverse populations, such as Margaret Thatcher and Bill Clinton were able
(and in the case of Newt Gingrich, unable) to change the mind of their
are seven factors, Dr. Gardner sometimes calls them “levers”, which
could cause an individual, or for that matter a population, to change or
not to change his or her or their mind and act accordingly.
These levers are (a) reason; (b) research; (c) resonance; (d)
representational redescriptions; (e) resources and rewards; (f) real world
events; (g) and resistances. A
change of mind is most likely to occur, Dr. Gardner observes, when the
first six are pushing in the same direction, and the pull of the seventh,
namely resistances, is relatively weak.
is a particularly potent lever of mind change among those who to adhere to
the definition of man as exclusively homo
sapiens. Some form of rational justification is usually to move people
to action, particularly in our country where having a katwiran is an essential requisite for inducing people to at least
listen to what one has to say. Even
my six year old granddaughter asks “why?” whenever told to drop
something she is doing and ordered to do something else instead.
in this age dominated by science and technology, a dash of research, i.e.
invoking the combined impact of data collected under some scientifically
determined method, is likewise useful in the effort to change minds
because research lends an air of gravity to a message.
Research, by itself, may not be sufficient to significantly change
minds. But coupled with
reason, it provides the “meat” to the rationale offered for change.
is a quality in a change message that gives the impression that what is
being said fits the hearer’s experience, beliefs, or own thinking and
thus renders requiring further evidence to be unnecessary.
Resonance readily persuades the man in the street. Thus,
advertisements of health drinks always feature one who exudes energy, and
who is young, vigorous and shapely. After
all, would you believe that skimmed milk will help you slim down if
endorsed by a fatso?
message has the quality of representational redescription if it can be
stated in various ways. Stating a point in many ways to a diverse population is
likely to convince a large constituency because the people making up the
audience have different intelligences.
The class room lecture or sermon from the pulpit may bring home the
point to sector A of the population but not to sector B.
But sector B could very well see the point if it is delivered in
song and dance. Obviously,
stating the same point in both ways will result in convincing both sectors
A and B.
resources backing up the delivery of a message and providing rewards for
embracing it would make that message easily acceptable.
Convincing teachers to introduce their students to the wonders of
the computer age would by far be easier if, for instance, every classroom
is provided with a working computer.
world events could also tip the balance in favor of a message.
Kids have always been told that smoking was bad for them.
But there is nothing like a member of the family succumbing to lung
cancer attributable to chain-smoking that will convince a teenager to give
up smoking despite peer pressure.
change, by definition, involves some form of resistance to the change.
An individual’s background will always have with him a baggage of
beliefs, prejudices, opinions, and inclinations which may militate against
a change of mind. For
instance, convincing people to voluntarily pay taxes in the right amount
and promptly is most arduous if the people are of the belief that
government simply wastes the revenues it collects, or that politicians
enrich themselves using the people’s money, or that government has
failed to provide the services it is expected to render.
identifying the levers of mind change, Dr. Gardner in the rest of the book
demonstrates how these factors are brought to bear on a range of entities,
from a heterogeneous or diverse group, to a more or less homogenous body,
like a social club, and finally to single mind, namely, one’s own.
Each area has its own interesting features that make it receptive
to the influence of one factor or another, but for the moment, it suffices
for us to focus on Chapter 4 to see how the levers were made to operate
successfully on a nation.
Thatcher stands out as exemplar mind change. She was able to change her
nation with a story line which is summarized by “Britain has lost its
way” and proposition that she was the one who could lead Britain to the
right path. She employed
reason, research, representational redescriptions, resources and rewards,
and fortunately for her, she was favored with real world events.
She was thus able to successfully fight off counterstories, e.g.
that Britain’s lost glory is lost forever and that Britons should be
content with playing second fiddle to Americans, that posed as obstances
to the change she exposed. Too
bad that (perhaps another evidence of the insidious effect of power on a
human person) her tenure did not and in a way that left her countryman
sweet memories of her.
the other side of the Atlantic, Dr. Gardner examined Bill Clinton and Newt
Gingrich. Clinton’s success
Dr. Gardner attributes to his ability to cause resonance in his audience,
to Bill Clinton’s knack for studying the personalities he was dealing
with and determining what it took to get them to go along with him.
Lack of resonance, on the other hand, was identified to be
primarily what prevented Newt Gingrich to make people see it his way.
His style failed to neutralize opponents (one of them, Bill
Clinton) and his story line conflicted with his own life.
particular interest to our national leaders should be Dr. Gardner’s
identification of a tool that leaders of diverse groups have successfully
used to change their constituents’ minds.
Dr. Gardner submits that what is needed to change the mind of a
heterogeneous group is a compelling story (reasoned and researched), that
is lived in one’s own life (resonance) and is presented many different
formats (representational redescriptions) so that it can eventually topple
the counter stories of the opposition. The story must be simple, easy to
identify with and evocative of pleasant experiences. It must also capture the audience at the visceral level,
provoking the audience, as it were, to fill in the for themselves and as
they saw fit, the unsaid details of the story.
In that way, everyone envisions a role for himself to play and a
place in the grand scheme of things. They too become owners of the story.
Space prevents us from further discussing the wealth of ideas Dr. Gardner shares in Changing Minds as well as in ventilating the fruits of his and his colleagues’ studies. Those interested in hearing him and his work in person as well as in sharing in the effort of bringing him to our people may wish to get more details of his visit early next year from Ms. Joy Cannon-Abaquin, Directress of Multiple Intelligence International School Foundation, Inc., at 4 Escaler St. Loyola Heights Quezon City, tel. no. (632) 9280143 and (632) 4334949. Fax No. (632) 4334948.