4 Ways To Train Your Brain To Be More Open-Minded
The idea that opposites attract isn’t entirely true. People prefer to hang out with people who are like-minded, according to research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While this makes for easy-going relationships and conversations, it doesn’t help to broaden your perspective or open your mind. To do those things, you have to purposefully take other actions.
“Becoming more open-minded is actually a counterintuitive mental task,” says John Brown, psychologist and organizational development consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants. “Our brains think in whole ideas, the famous cognitive psychologist Jean Piaget taught us. These whole ideas are called ‘schema.'”
Schema includes our life experiences, beliefs, social reinforcements, and physiological reactions. “To visualize schema, think of Venn diagrams,” he explains. “When new information comes into our consciousness, we have to either fit it to our existing schema, or adjust our existing schema to fit the new information.”
When something fits, it’s called “assimilation,” says Brown. “Assimilation is easy, because the new information fits all of our other existing experiences and preconceived ideas; it doesn’t challenge any existing ideas,” he says. “But when new information doesn’t fit into our existing ideas about things, the new information might challenge your feelings, your beliefs, and your own past experiences.”
Piaget called this phenomenon “accommodation.” “Accommodation requires the mental, or cognitive, ability to suspend judgment temporarily, to weigh information, and a willingness to recognize parts of your own existing beliefs as incorrect or in need of new frames of reference,” says Brown. “People become very defensive when their existing ideas are challenged. When we can’t wrap our heads around a new idea, that’s an example of how hard it is to accommodate.”