Scientific reason why it's hard to get someone to change their beliefs.

by LisaRose 9 Replies latest jw friends

  • LisaRose

    Many of us have had the experience of trying to share our knowledge of the dark side of the Watchtower with those we love, only to have it end badly with the person getting deeply upset and refusing to believe any of it. A new study might shed some light on the problem. This brain study looked at what happens when someone's belief system is challenged. What is it that makes people emotional and angry when their beliefs are challenged?

    The MRIs showed that the parts of the brain that were triggered control deep, emotional thoughts about personal identity.
    “When people activate these emotional structures of the brain more, when they’re being challenged, they’re less likely to change their minds,” the professor explained.

    This study used political beliefs to test subjects, but you could probably make a guess that the same thing happens when religious beliefs are challenged, possibly even more so, especially when it comes to someone in a religion like Jehovah's Witnesses. The reverse could also happen, I have read many stories of EX JWs who become emotional when they run into Jehovah's Witnesses, in fact when the JWs came to my door I was kind of shook up, although I had been away for years and was happy in my new life.

    Full article here:

  • LoveUniHateExams

    Good OP.

    I'll look at the article when I have the time.

    Perhaps another factor that maybe involved here is neophobia.

    Neophobia affects humans and other species. The fear of new things, of change.

    Our beliefs help us make sense of the world, they may even give us comfort.

    People often don't want to let go of their beliefs - including political beliefs.

  • tor1500


    I like what someone said, "Our beliefs help us make sense of the world, they may even give us comfort". I think that's the foundation of why many worship. I know a witness female that told me (I'm a witness too) that she comes to the hall for peace it's not the doctrine, but that the meetings gives her peace. I feel the same way, I have found reading the bible and finding out that God/Jesus left mankind's up to us to take it. When going through difficult situations I find I can have faith and hope that God will get me through. I think many believe every time we pray to God he will fix it...if we never go through anything in life how does that develop ones character, that each situation we go through, should make us stronger.

    Many stay for different reasons...I have mine as well, for me it's the friends that I've made, oh, I know they are conditional friends, but that's who they are. I don't judge them. I'm pretty popular in my congregation, I don't pioneer or have special privi's....what makes me popular...I'm nice....and I smile...that's it...I just be myself. One of the sisters and I are close...we were talking about DF'ing...she really likes me....and confides in me things no one else knows...she has been in the truth since birth, and I have become her best friends...again, I know it's conditional, but I said, I hope I will never be DF'd but if so, no one will be able to keep me from God, ( I took the chance to say this). If I will miss me...the congregation will miss me. Because whatever I did to be DF'd shouldn't stop our friendship....she was quiet, because she knows darn well I'm right...

    Again, many stay for different reasons. Just like folks stay at a job they hate, some look for another job, some stay and complain about the job to anyone that listens....that's not good for the moral. Just like the org. some leave some stay and me...LOL..

    The longer I'm a witness the more I try to find the common denominator that attracts folks to this I fell in...but what I do notice is many come in that have some type of mental problems....depression, hypercondriates..yes, whiners, and a host of other issues..even when we do the demos, it's always talking to someone who is going through something...I guess anyone who is well adjusted would never join the witnesses.

    Many witnesses won't be able to change their mind....for one good reason...PRIDE...that pride is what makes them get defensive when you challenge reality they are thinking who are you to question me, I'm in God's org. Just think when you challenge their literature compared to the bible, they think you are challenging the actual bible and the org...Once I said, no, I'm not challenging the bible, I'm challenging man....if it's not in the bible than it's not true...actually, that's my go to line every time I talk to anyone in the org...that's a safe way to say, I don't believe everything the org./ brothers say, this way you are saying but not saying...they have no come back....this statement makes them think of all the changes in the that simple have planted a make take root or not...


  • Onager


    That article is arguing that questioning a persons beliefs activates the areas of the brain involved with self identity. It's nothing to do with pride, but rather that peoples beliefs are linked to peoples sense of self.

    So it's not an aspect of personality, like pride, that makes people resistant to change, but a fundamental way that human brains work.

  • Half banana
    Half banana

    An excellent find LisaRose.

    What we do is culturally bound; dependant on which culture we find ourselves in.

    Neuroscientists detect the brain reacting electrochemically to cultural situations and here we are shown the brain saying “my view of myself and the world is being challenged so I’ve got to put my foot down!” Indeed it describes the existential crisis in a JW’s mind when “belief” is questioned.

    Without too much speculation on this point, surely it has to do with our identity, which is how privately we see ourselves and how this self constructed notion relates to the society we live in, i.e. who we think we are and how we think we should relate to others.

    In the case of JWs, it is not surprising they bridle at the slightest challenge to their belief because their happiness depends on belief in what the JW org has granted them. It has fostered a heroic identity for all members based on a tenuous but aristocratic belief of associating with those effectively chosen by God to do his work. Once this absurdity is swallowed the bearer of the belief is drawn to fellow believers because only they reinforce the JW identity.

    Significantly the JW world is held at odds with the normal world of humankind believing these to be under “Satanic influence” and soon to be exterminated... This us-and-them stance is yet another defining and heightening of the JW membership values.

    To challenge the validity of this fragile identity as a privileged believer is naturally alarming since it undermines both their sense of self and also their most cherished hopes. Too much to lose!

    Neuroscience tells us then that the brain closes the shutters and tightens its grip on existing belief if one’s worldview and identity are challenged, so it’s a good heads-up on how we talk to believers.

  • LisaRose
    Neuroscience tells us then that the brain closes the shutters and tightens its grip on existing belief if one’s worldview and identity are challenged, so it’s a good heads-up on how we talk to believers.

    Yes, that is the important point in this article and explains much about why you will almost never convince a JW that the Watchtower is wrong by pointing out it's flaws. You actions are counter productive because you are threatening the person's sense of self, the battle is lost at the get go.

    The few examples of people that got others out of the religion all worked because they didn't ever criticIze the Watchtower. Instead they asked leading questions designed to get the person to think.

  • tor1500

    Hi Onager,

    That is true. I think some people are able to change their minds if shown the facts and others whether scientific or personality wise if shown the facts you will not be able to change their minds.

    There are things we all believe and by experience or observation our minds cannot be changed because what we know is true and what we've seen.

    I agree the best way to try to change the mind of a witness is as someone said ask them a leading question.

    For me, when someone tries to change my mind I either put up a defense or won't admit that maybe I'm wrong, as time passes I find out I might have been wrong....but didn't want the other person to know... Another point is some folks don't like to be criticized about anything...

  • carla

    I read articles similar to this years ago when my jw joined up. I could literally see real changes in his brain if you can believe that, read up and realized they were actually changing his brain. He would never be the same even if he leaves the borg. I guess that it is true for many life changing events in our life. Just would be easier if he decided to find transcendental meditation or something!

  • LevelThePlayingField

    Great OP, thanks for that. I always thought it might be something like that that makes people not want to believe the facts staring them in the face.

  • EdenOne

    Very interesting OP, LisaRose. Thank you.


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