"The Idea You are Least Likely to Believe"
by Scott Adams
"When Trump started his historic run for the White House last year, I blogged that he would change more than politics. I said he would forever change how we view reality. And so he has. The mainstream media and the public now accept the idea that Trump ignored facts, science, and even common decency… and still got elected. I have been telling readers of this blog for a year that facts don’t matter. Policies don’t matter. The only thing that matters is persuasion. And Trump has plenty of persuasion.
To be perfectly clear, when I say facts don’t matter, I mean that in the limited sense of decision-making. If you make the wrong decision, the facts can kill you. That’s not in debate. I’m talking about the process or arriving at a decision – whether it is a good decision or not. The decision-making process is largely divorced from facts and reason. We live under a consistent illusion that facts and logic guide our decisions. They don’t.
The exception to this rule is when there is no emotional dimension to a decision. For example, if a mechanic says it will cost you $1,000 to fix your car, and you can see no other option that makes sense, one could say that facts and logic guided your decision to approve the repairs. But emotion-free decisions are unusual. You rarely see emotion-free decisions when it comes to politics, relationships, or even your career.
And this brings us to the question of President Elect Trump’s seeming disregard for facts as he plowed through the competition to reach the presidency. The common view from his critics is that Trump is an idiot. The common view from his supporters is that his facts are not so wrong, or at least they are directionally accurate. I don’t subscribe to either interpretation. I find the Master Persuader filter is a better way to understand this strange situation.
A Master Persuader* – and anyone trained in hypnosis or persuasion in general – knows that humans don’t use facts and reason to make important decisions. Most persuaders prefer sticking to the facts when possible, but that is mostly to avoid looking like idiots. They know that sticking to facts will not persuade.
Trump just takes things one step further. He doesn’t pretend the facts matter when they don’t. To put this in more practical terms, Trump does the things that matter and ignores the things that don’t. He just has a better idea than the public and the media about what matters. For example…
The public thinks facts matter for decisions. They don’t.
The public thinks being “presidential” matters for getting elected. It didn’t.
The public thinks Trump should have studied the issues more deeply. And he will, as needed. But he didn’t need detailed policy knowledge to get elected (evidently).
The experts said Trump needed more ground game. He didn’t.
I could go on, but I hope you see the pattern already. Trump ignores the things that don’t matter – even to the point of looking the fool – and pays deep attention to what DOES matter. That’s what made him our next president.
When Trump was running for election, facts and reasons and policy details didn’t matter to the outcome. He knew that. I knew that. Every trained persuader knew it. But the general public did not, and that is the realization that is beginning to dawn on the world.
Once in office, facts and reason do matter more. Trump is moving from the job of talking about issues to the job of doing something about them. In his new role, he will pay attention to details and facts and reason as much as humanly possible, with the help of advisors. You already see this transformation happening as Trump moderates his positions on waterboarding, prosecuting Clinton, and even climate change.
If you have not studied persuasion it makes perfect sense to be in a panic about a Trump presidency. You see a pattern of irrational-looking behavior from Trump during the election and you assume the trend will continue into the presidency. But if you understand the tools of persuasion you see a Master Persuader ignoring what doesn’t matter and paying close attention to what does, for the benefit of the country. That is literally the safest situation I can imagine.
As president, facts do matter. Reason matters. Logic matters. But persuasion does too – and it is still hugely important to the job of being president. Don’t expect Trump to embrace any facts that are not important to “making America great again.” But I do think you can expect facts to influence Trump when they do matter.
If you are worried how a President Trump will address climate change, here’s what to expect. You can expect him to dissect the topic in terms of the facts that matter and the ones that don’t. You can expect him to eventually agree with scientists who say human activity is contributing to climate change. But when it comes to the prediction models, and America’s ability to fix the problem at a reasonable cost, expect him to be more skeptical than the general public.
That isn’t crazy. Complicated models that try to predict the future rarely succeed. I realize that the stakes are high if I’m wrong. But keep in mind that a year ago I was giving Trump a 98% chance of winning the presidency when experts were at 2%. And my prediction was based on the persuasion filter.
I don’t believe human brains evolved to understand reality at an objective level. The best we can do is pick filters that do a good job of predicting what’s ahead. The Persuasion Filter predicted Trump’s win when most other models did not. Now I use the same filter to predict that Trump will turn from totally ignoring facts (because facts don’t matter to elections) to embracing the facts that do matter to the country.
You can still expect Trump to ignore any facts that don’t matter, such as the exact number of non-citizens that voted for Clinton. In that case he was making the press think past the sale (that non-citizens voted) and forcing them to spend time talking about the exact number until our brains uncritically accept his central premise that lots of non-citizens voted for Clinton. That is pure persuasion. He won’t change the methods that work. Watch and learn.”
* "The Persuasion Reading List"
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