Ask the grumpies: How to change hearts and minds with Science

Jenny F. Scientist asks:

How to reach closed-minded usually far right wing students with science.

Here’s an economics paper that supposedly addresses that question (click here for an early, free version):

Galperti, Simone. 2019.”Persuasion: The Art of Changing Worldviews.” American Economic Review 109(3):996-1031

Abstract: Persuaders often face the task of changing their listeners’ worldview, which may involve conveying evidence that disconfirms that view. It has been shown, however, that people are often reluctant to change their worldviews. These aspects of persuasion cannot be captured in the standard Bayesian framework. The paper identifies the constraints, opportunities, and trade-offs of persuading people to change worldview. It finds necessary and sufficient conditions under which it is optimal for persuaders to do so. It also shows when and how they conceal disconfirming evidence and take advantage of their listener’s existing worldview.

Not a ton of practical information there.

The things I’ve seen recommended have been:

1.  Not disagreeing, but asking questions until the person starts to question it themselves.  This is a little tougher than it used to be because Fox News has glib answers to the surface questions that feel right because they’ve been repeated so many times, but continuing to probe deeper until the contradictions come out helps.  I’m not finding a link on this, but I have seen it talked about as something that has been tested.

2.  A three pronged approach:

An approach that starts by coming out with common ground .  You validate things they believe, make them feel listened to and like you have something in common.  Then you give alternatives– I notice in the link here the examples they give start with questions.  Only then do you provide proof.  In pre-Trump days when I taught Public Finance, I was able to get Libertarians to understand that feeding children is an investment in smaller government later.  (Nowadays the Libertarians I get are Libertarian In Name Only– and it’s really hard to reason with Social Conservatives who hate women and minorities.)

3.  A third thing that I’ve seen on forums but have not actually seen anybody talk about scientifically (probably because it’s a different part of psychology) is not focusing on the hard-core people at all, but focusing on the folks that are easily swayed.  This is likely to alienate the core close-minded people, but may “save” more people.  I don’t think I would do this with college students though because they’re so young and are probably more reachable than the main nutcases on the closed anti-vaxxer sub-forums of mommy boards.

4.  Convince people who believe things because they’re conspiracy theorists that there’s a conspiracy to get them to believe these horrible things.  That turns out to not be that hard to do because IT IS TRUE (see:  Russian bots).  The last part of this article talks about that technique in conjunction with anti-vaxxers and I’ve seen anecdotal evidence from doctors that it often works with their more paranoid patients.

Grumpy Nation, have you ever been able to convince a close-minded person of anything?

Ask the readers: How can a student remember to turn in hir completed homework?

We’ve tried a bunch of things so far, even talking to one of the teachers, but DC1 cannot always remember to turn in hir homework.  Homework has different deadlines for different classes– math, for example, unlike previous math classes, only wants one big homework packet on the day of the exam.  English has daily bellwork that is only due on Fridays.  Biology is due randomly.  And so on.

DC1 is oblivious to the teacher reminding in class and to other kids putting homework in homework baskets. Things came to a head last week when we got an auto-notification that DC1 had gotten zeroes on three (completed) assignments (two major, one minor) on the same day.  Zie had just not turned them in.  Of course, one of these classes was English, and for the same not turning bellwork in on Friday as has happened before that we literally discussed with hir about this exact assignment this past week.  The other two classes are ones where zie does not have a whole lot of wiggle room, including a math packet on exam day.  This is the second time DC1 has failed to turn in a completed math packet on exam day.  None of these teachers accept late work.

Keeping an assignment notebook hasn’t worked.  Punching holes into papers and putting them in a 3 ring binder hasn’t worked.  Having a folder for random papers hasn’t worked.  For a while there I was going through papers with DC1 every night but got sick of it, and DH said he’d take over and he did for a few days but then he stopped.

The current thing we’re trying is to take a page from DC2’s elementary school.  I have repurposed one of DC2’s old homework folders.  DC1 is going to cross out hir younger sibling’s name and put HOMEWORK FOLDER on it in sharpie.  And it is only going to have homework that is due in it.  And then maybe if it still has stuff in it at the end of the day, zie can run and try to turn it in before getting on the bus?  Of course, this still requires going through those damn papers every night and making sure they get filed instead of just stuffing them in hir backpack in a crumpled mess.  I suspect any system would work if zie would just go through things without a parent assisting.

One of my friends complains that her kid doesn’t do the homework, or forgets about it and does it at the last minute.  But her kid turns things in!  And a 70 or 80% is better than a 0%!  Our kid remembers assignments, does the homework, and then just… never turns them in.  It has been happening all year, and we’re at a complete loss.

Any suggestions?

We bought all the things: Will I run out of ways to be obnoxious?

So over the past year or two we’ve bought two cars, renovated the kitchen, shared the expense for a new fence with our neighbor, and bought a new clothes washer.  We’ve subsidized family vacations to not-so-fancy midwestern destinations and we’re going on an anniversary trip (to Portland!) next summer.  I also bought an iPad pro and a Remarkable for quasi-work purposes (the iPad pro seems to be the winner so far for editing other people’s papers, and I’ve been good about not using it for goofing off).

Since October we’ve bought the aforementioned clothes washer, donated a TON of money to various educational causes (including $2K+ to DC2’s school, the + because they had a couple fundraisers that we donated to separately), sent money to various political causes, and I made DH buy an Apple watch because he works from home alone and it can detect falls and irregular heart-beats and notify people about them.  (Really I started the campaign to have him buy one because I thought it could detect heart attacks, but it turns out it can’t.  Still, the other health metrics seem more useful than nothing.)*  DH is buying himself a 3D printer (he’s been avidly reading gasstationwithoutpumps among other sources in anticipation), though maybe that shouldn’t count since he’s been saving up his allowance for it for a long time.  We also bought $200 worth of Scholastic books and a new tall bookcase to replace DC1’s short bookcase (hir old bookcase is going back into the hallway) for $500.  And we paid the full property taxes in one fell swoop and I transferred 10K over to Vanguard taxable.

Really only the property taxes (and technically the Vanguard transfer before it) made a dent in our savings.  This is because in October we both got a bunch of large delayed reimbursements (I think something like 9K (!) worth– did you know you can just rent an ultrasound for like $500/mo?), late summer salary, and my first paycheck on top of DH’s paychecks.  So we were super flush with cash after having a somewhat careful September and then the bills for a lot of these won’t be due until after we get paid again.

I don’t really have a point to this post, but it’s been weighing on me and I had to tell someone, and who else to tell besides the grumpy nation?  I am going crazy buying all the things, but a lot of this buying was also delayed spending.  So it feels like a lot, but maybe it isn’t because other people would have renovated that kitchen a decade ago, bought a new clothes washer the first time it broke instead of repairing it multiple times, regularly gone on vacations, and have bought a watch to replace that 20 year old Casio calculator watch a long time ago instead of just replacing bands and batteries.  (Me, I’m still rocking a 20 year old Timex that I love.  I think you can get the same model new for under $40.)  But let’s be completely honest, we’ve been spending a lot.

What I’m wondering is if after this spurt of buying things we’ve been putting off buying or thought would be nice to have if I’ll settle down again into not spending frivolously or if this is a new normal.  I can’t really think of anything else I want… I mean we’ve kind of exhausted useful Apple products.  Maybe my next big purchase will be a crown for when my third molar finishes cracking (dentist thinks no earlier than next year, but definitely in my future).  Or maybe I’ll see something new I want and just get it in my best Ariana Grande style.

Will the obnoxious posts end?  What money things will I blog about if they do?  Do you delay purchases and then spend when you’re flush or do you spend more evenly?

*Update:  it turns out our iphones are just a little bit too old for the newest Apple watch (we didn’t get the S version when we bought our phones).  So DH has to decide if he wants to get a new phone or return this watch.  And if he returns this watch, does he get an older model Apple watch or not.  He probably won’t get an older model.  My guess is we’ll either return or DH will finally upgrade phones (his is falling apart a bit and we have been thinking of passing it down to DC1 since DC1’s current dumb phone works only about half the time we need it to work, though that has its own concerns).   There was another item in the initial draft of this post that got returned as well– I bought a pair of fancy European shoes off Zappo’s, but when I got them one of the two didn’t fit and had all sorts of stitching problems(!) so I sent them back and decided I really do have to go to a store to try on expensive shoes, but there are no such stores nearby so… I’m not sure what I’m going to do for my brown dress shoes need given my half boots are really worn down in the heel.  DH is thinking an iPhone 8 (same size as his current 6) for $450 instead of an 11 for $700 or 11 Pro for $1000, so that’s almost frugal (not really).

Link love

New data show that the US held a record 69,000 migrant children in custody in 2019. (cw:  sexual assault, child abuse)

Why there’s an instacart boycott

If you saw Bill Gates’ attack on Elizabeth Warren, remember this (and think of Amazon and Facebook and how they’re even worse monopolies than Microsoft ever was):

Reminder that you can get impeachment updates all in one fell swoop at impeachment.fyi

Ask the grumpies: Feelings about decluttering

Leah asks:

How do you feel about decluttering? Is it easy or challenging for you?

Is it easy or challenging?  Who knows?  We haven’t tried!  I mean, we’re already hitting where our budget constraint hits our utility curves, so why would we want to mess with that?

More seriously:  I try to not let stuff in the house to begin with.  So when we get gifts we don’t want, they go in our goodwill cabinet (or gift closet for unopened children’s gifts) straight away.  The only actual “decluttering” I do is when DC2 outgrows clothing and I hand them down to a colleague which was something people did before it got called decluttering.  Most of the stuff that leaves our house leaves it because it is broken or worn out or used up or outgrown at the point it is no longer useful.  We don’t systematically clean things out or have any sort of targeted decluttering.

Update:  DC2 recently went through hir room and closet and got rid of a lot of stuff zie had outgrown.  I guess that’s technically decluttering, though the questions were more “have you grown out of this/do you want this” than “does this spark joy.”  When zie did that, the goodwill cabinet (where we put things we don’t want until we decide to deal with them) got full, so we took multiple loads to goodwill, three of my colleagues with younger kids got bags full of clothing and toys, and we have a bag of new with tags stuff (gifts that never got worn) ready to go to a refugee center in the city.  So I guess we declutter but don’t think of it as decluttering.

What about the rest of Grumpy Nation?  Do you declutter?

RBOC

  • Our local grocery has stopped selling any no-sugar-added cereals in the frufru dried cereal area.  They have literally 4 kinds of fancy honey O cereal, but zero kinds of regular O cereal.  I went to the regular cereal section too and the lowest sugar oat O cereal they had was regular Cheerios which still has sugar added but not much.  So I got regular cheerios and then some store-brand mini-wheats and just for kicks some Post bran/whole wheat mini-wheats.  The only whole grain and no sugar cereal I didn’t buy was full sized shredded wheats.  I should probably just start eating oatmeal again, but I’m worried I’ll get sick of it if I eat it every day since it took a while for me to get not sick of it after (wheat-allergic fetus) DC2 was born.  This wouldn’t be such a huge problem except DC1 decided he liked my Rip’s Big Bowl from Whole Foods, so even though I bought three boxes the last time we went it wasn’t enough to last us to our next WF excursion.  Meanwhile I’ve been having toast and handfuls of nuts for breakfast.  But I’d rather not have to *think* about breakfast in the morning.
  • Note to self:  Next time I do bonds in taxable, choose munis VWITX vanguard municipal bond fund (maybe VWLTX ?)  Note 50K needed to qualify for admiral shares.  That is unlikely to happen any time soon.  .17 vs. 09 fees.  Can bond funds drip?
  • For Christmas/Birthday for DC1 I want to buy a theremin kit, a unicycle, and this lockpicking set (not sponsored links), but really we should only get two out of three.  (The lockpicking set is a price that we could suggest it as a present to the in-laws, but also it’s not really something that the in-laws would probably want to get for hir.)  DC1 is in a rapid growth phase, so the unicycle probably could wait another year so we can get a more permanent fit on the seat height, BUT we don’t have PE down here in the South (DC1 has one required semester that doesn’t fit in hir schedule until junior year) and the parks and rec tennis class zie took after quitting swimming lessons ended and zie needs exercise, so learning the unicycle would be a way to accomplish that until we can figure out some other organized activity that DC1 is willing to do.  (DC1 suggested trapeze lessons, maybe from watching too much Kaliedo Star, but the place outside town that had that as an option went out of business two years ago.)  So I dunno.  I’m not finding the reasonably priced theramin kit I saw before, so that may make the decision for us since $350 for something that’s not actually useful is a bit much.
  • DC1 also needs a new bike– although zie is now my height and can probably just ride mine until zie has settled on a more long-term height.  It is insane how quickly they grow as pre-teen/teenagers.
  • My car got a knocking sound that sounded like someone had attached a pie tin to the wheels.  It turned out to be a small rock that got into the brake system.  Nothing specific to the Insight, and not covered under the warranty, but also only a $90 fix.
  • It boggles my mind that in this day and age a prominent blogger would think it’s ok to let hir child dress in what looks a heck of a lot like blackface for Halloween (and is, in fact, a costume that a quick google shows makes the news *regularly* as being bad).  How does one not know that that is NOT ok?  It’s super creepy to me that there are neighborhood Halloween parades that include white people dressed in blackface and nobody says dude, that’s not cool.  Zie took the pictures down and briefly addressed it…but it’s still really unsettling.
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We bought a new clothes washer

We decided it was time to get a new clothes washer because we couldn’t get the mustiness out of the old one (and did not want to spend a weekend taking it apart and putting it back together).  Instead, we spent a weekend reading online reviews, subscribing to consumer reports, etc. etc. etc.

Consumer reports had a different viewpoint than most of the other review sites, and that difference seemed to be entirely driven by brand reliability ratings.  Many of the for-profit sites preferred a fancy front-loading Electrolux model, but they got low points for long-term reliability with Consumer Reports.  Consumer Reports preferred LG as a brand.  After some comparison of pros and cons across different sites, we decided to get the LG #WM3700HWA (not an affiliate link) from Home Depot for a total cost including installation and parts of $913.93.

This is a pretty fancy clothes washer.

The thing that lots of people don’t like about it is that the panel display needs a lot of light in order to be read, so it isn’t great for basement laundry rooms.  Our utility room is bright and cheery with a window, so we don’t have that problem.

The second problem is that while this machine did really well on cleanliness in the tests, the regular cycle was not the most gentle of the washers that various places tested.  We have found that to be true in our case as well.  Our clothing gets clean without pre-soaking or a second wash (even DC1’s stinky pits), but it isn’t incredibly gentle on clothes.  For most of our clothing this doesn’t matter, but DC2 has had a couple of older shirts lose their printing in the washer.  My clothing that I’ve been washing on delicate doesn’t seem to have any problems, so maybe if this is something you’re worried about, stick to the delicate cycle.

Finally, there were complaints about the blue-tooth … but we are never going to want to use an app to run our laundry in our house.  Maybe if we had basement laundry or a more busy active lifestyle we might use the keep tumbling feature… but… I just don’t think we are going to be in a situation in which this would be a useful feature.

One nice thing about the washer, which may be also related to it being harder on clothing, is that it does a really good job of getting the water out of clothing, which has cut down on our dryer time considerably.  Most of our loads get dry in 50-60 minutes rather than 90+.  Of course, there’s also more time spent in the washer than before, so we haven’t actually cut down on total time.  But if dryers are bigger energy hogs than washers, this may not be a bad thing.

I also had some fun playing with the steam cycle that supposedly gets rid of allergens.  I did a load of itchy shirts and towels on that cycle and they came out not itchy at all and just as clean as the regular cycle.  So I’m not really sure if there’s a benefit to either cycle, except the allergen steam cycle takes twice as long as the regular cycle.

Supposedly this washer has a self-clean cycle.  We haven’t tried it yet.

The washer is also a lot bigger in capacity than our previous one.  Our dryer hasn’t gotten any bigger, so that’s not particularly helpful.

The thing we like best about this washer (other than the not giving me hives part) is that when it’s done washing, instead of strident beeping, it sings a happy little song that sounds reminiscent of an ice cream truck.  (Our Hondas also sing little songs when they’re going slowly– our household is getting pleasantly musical.  With a pleasantness exception of the way that the kids have been singing Christmas songs on the top of their lungs since June.)

So we’re pretty happy and I’m again wishing we’d just gotten a new washer back this summer when the door handle broke instead of after the leak and permanent spreading mustiness and hives.  But if it weren’t for the hives, we’d probably be happily continuing to use this washer and to fix smaller parts as they broke.

Are there any other updates you’re interested in reading about?