The increasing numbers of Science denier in the population and political figures are a growing concern.  Many have tried to discuss climate change or vaccination but were confronted to closed eyes and hears (when the discussion did not escalate in a virulent argument).

Dr Gleb Tsipursky has come up with a solution that allows talking to your Science denier neighbour without arguing! (Yes you can).

In a very interesting skype interview with him, we discussed his work as a disaster avoidance expert, using the EGRIP strategy to talk to unbelievers and the truth-seeking pledge.

 

Dr Gleb Tsipursky, disaster avoidance expert, consultant, speaker and best-selling author is the co-founder and Chief Science Officer of the Pro-Truth Pledge. He was professor at Ohio State University’s Decision Sciences Collaborative. He jungled for a few years between his work in the University and his communication outside academia talking to business leader, training them to wise decision making. In 2018 he left his academic job to be a full-time consultant and author. His Amazon bestseller The Truth Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide is a must-have.

 

 

“I am on a mission to protect leaders from dangerous judgment errors known as cognitive biases”

 

How does one become a disaster avoidance expert?
I have a PhD in the History of Behavioral Science where I studied the psychology of decision making in business and other contexts. I was a professor for 7 years at Ohio State University. I started to go outside of academia to train business leader on how to make wise decision. In 2018 I left academia to be a full-time science communicator.

 

What drove you toward this field of work?
I am passionate about the process of decision making. In my childhood, I could see my parents make bad decision, and the conflict and suffering it created. I have seen the booming of online company promising people that they will make money fast while these company will quickly go bankrupt, bringing their customers with them. I was very frustrated to see all this suffering caused by bad decision making.

 

What your clients are looking for when they reach for your expertise?
My clients are looking for an emotional perspective. Our decisions are driven by emotion.

Business leaders are looking for safety and rational decision. I bring my expertise so they can make better decision, mostly around people. I help them focus and what they want to achieve.

Let’s take an example. One of my clients was managing a conflict between two employees. One of them may have revealed sensitive information. My client was however not sure who was telling the truth. Her first thought was to confront her employee. I asked her about her long-term goals. She said that she wanted to save the company and her relation with her employee. A direct confrontation could have led to a defensive behaviour or even to her employee leaving the company.

So the bottom line was that she had to think about the outcome with people and what to achieve: obtaining the truth or maintaining good company culture?

 

In your article in Scientific American: How to Talk to a Science Denier without Arguing you are using the  EGRIP strategy, what does it stand for?
We tend to approach denier with argument and fact but most people don’t approve argument and fact! They feel attacked and feel that they need to become defensive.

The first approach is to question why these people denied reality. It could be many reasons. If you, for example, take climate change deniers, many feel that if they accept it, they automatically accept what the politics and economics consequence will be. Or it could be for religious reasons: God can’t do that. For both, it’s a cause of fear and anxiety.

Challenging your world view is a difficult situation!

 

You are the co-founder of the Pro-truth pledge on which you based our book: The Truth-Seeker’s Handbook: A Science-Based Guide.  What does it mean to pledge?

The Pro-Truth Pledge is a civic project to promote truthfulness and integrity for individual, professionals and leaders.
It’s a commitment to truth and a joint effort against bias. When you pledge, you are engaging yourself to:

  1. Share the truth by fact-checking and sharing sources.
  2. Honour the truth that others share even if it’s is unpleasant. Acknowledge truthful information, don’t denied facts, even if they are uncomfortable for us: Ex when bad information is uncovered about your favourite candidate, you have to acknowledge it.
  3. Encourage the truth: you want to discourage the spreading of incorrect fact.
  4. Be positive about the information of truth: if leaders change their mind toward truth, encourage them as they tend to be criticised and described as weak. In short: Be civilise toward the truth.

 

How do you wish to see the future of scientific communication to be?

For now, scientist talks to scientist. The way academia is structured discourage scientist to be a public figure. They get criticised as wasting their time with the masses. I would love to see universities encouraging their scientists to be public figures and share their knowledge.

One reason scientists do not want to be science communicators in academia is that it doesn’t pay much and they are seen as “poor” scientists. But it’s easy to say that scientist should be science communicators. For me, the most important would be to provide communication training for scientist but mostly providing incentive toward a university promotion toward communication.

People in position of power can make a change by changing the promotion to tenure. It’s doable and the people of power inside Universities should be whiling to it.

The new president of EU commission, Ursula Von Der Leyen is in charge of the money distribution.
A way toward with path would be to send an email to EU commission and ask her to do something to improve the communication of science.

 

A last word for our readers?

I encourage the readers to pledge and encourage even low efforts from scientist and politician toward truth in a common movement against bias.

 

The EGRIP strategy stands for Emotion Goal Report Information and Praise.

1) Emotion
Figure out their emotion, why are they denying the subject? What is their motivation? Fear? Faith? Anxiety?
Figure out their emotion: “how do you feel about X”? Are they angry? Maybe they don’t want to face a world where the future for their children will be bad? Do they fear a change is an economic lifestyle?

2) Goal

Let’s say that they fear that accepting climate change induces a worse economical life
Ok, then you would have to focus on their goals which here is the economy.

3) Rapport

You have to show how you share the same goal: the fear of change of economic lifestyle. Create a link with them, you are on the same side, you are part of the same tribe.
People base their reactions on their emotion: are you part of my tribe or not?

Then you can provide information.

4) Information

You challenge them to believe with fact that aligns with their reality: There is a large industrial push to turn climate change providing a huge new industry and so a lot of work to do toward green (good for the future economy).
It allows you to build-up on emotion with fact and it became easier for them to perform a shift toward your perspective.

5) Praise

Finally, you have to praise them for shifting their perspective, inducing a positive feeling to reinforce their new perspective.
Show that you are proud of them: “hey great that you can change and it’s a big strength!”

Emotional bias cause us to make errors: if facts does not stick to your own belief, you are going to look for your own belief.

 

Find Gleb and his work here:

Gleb’s books:

About Lauriane Nallet Khosrofian

I am a Neuroscientist passioned by all science. I think the world is a better place with curious people and science communication help fulfilling curiosity. Otherwise, I love, cats, food and books!
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