• Question: can you change how someone thinks ? like how they do things .. example : if people know all there life to stop at a red light can you make them stop thinking like thst

    Asked by ellengd1039 to Enda, Jean, Tim on 22 Nov 2012.
    • Photo: Enda O'Connell

      Enda O'Connell answered on 22 Nov 2012:

      Hi Ellengd1039,

      This is actually a really complex psychological question. Changing someone’s mind, even in a debate or an argument about something, is very difficult, as I’m sure you know. So getting someone to change the way they see something as important as a red light, which they have learned is there to protect them, would be very very difficult. The mind has a powerful self-preservation instinct and would not be easily convinced that something that it knows is dangerous, like breaking a red light, is no longer a problem.

      There are theories that people’s minds can be changed by mind control, brainwashing, hypnosis or chemicals but I find it difficult to believe that they would be effective enough for the person to put their life at risk. You might be able to have lesser effects, such as making somebody give you some information they didn’t want to, which has been the basis for torture for thousands of years.

      So, apart from it being very difficult, it would be completely unethical and immoral to even try!

      Why do you ask?

    • Photo: Jean Bourke

      Jean Bourke answered on 23 Nov 2012:

      There is something called behaviour therapy and it has a lot of applications in health care. It is aimed at eliminating harmful or undesirable behaviours and reinforcing desirable ones. This is done voluntarily thought. It has a lot of uses such as helping people in relationships deal with certain problems, treatment of chronic pain, anorexia, chronic distress, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and obesity. It can also work for phobias, anxiety, and panic.

      It is very patient oriented and the therapist responds to the patient’s needs. It aims to change how a person responds to things and how they thing about things but it does so to help them. It would probably be very hard to do so with someone who didn’t want to change but since it is aimed at people who want to change that might improve its effectiveness.

      Over time, and resorting to unorthodox methods you could probably change how someone think but I agree with Edna that it has some dubious moral implications.