14 ways to turn blockers into champions: Part 1 – Countering Belief Perseverance

Posted on September 15th, 2015 by

It’s challenging and time consuming to convince blockers₁ to cooperate in what seems to you a perfectly logical sourcing project. For example, do you have a stakeholder who’s doggedly backing an incumbent supplier despite reports that they are no longer competitive on price and lack the innovation shown by other suppliers?

If so, you may be up against a phenomenon known as Belief Perseverance, first described by Ross, Lepper and Hubbard in 1975 ₂. Belief Perseverance describes the persistence of an opinion in the face of overwhelming contradicting information.

Your efforts to change your stakeholder’s mind are likely to make them more determined to oppose your plans. Entrenchment may occur if the issues under discussion relate to their established worldview (e.g. stereotypes, ethics, self-identity)₃.

So, what can you do to steer this stakeholder round to your way of thinking? In this and the next two blogs, we suggest a few ideas to get you started.


1. Counter the evidence behind the belief, not the belief itself

Robbins ₄ describes a belief as a ‘feeling of certainty’, and likens it to a tabletop idea supported by legs – reference experiences that ‘prove’ to the person that the idea is true. Therefore, try to find out why the stakeholder believes that the incumbent supplier is the best option – i.e. what their reference experiences are – and disprove each of these and thus remove the legs to destabilise the tabletop.

2. Use de-biasing

When discussing the plans, focus on the facts rather than dwelling on ‘myths’. Often, repeatedly talking about myths – even negatively – reinforces the belief ₅  and so could strengthen the Belief Perseverance. Therefore, once you’ve disproved the stakeholder’s erroneous reference experiences, move on quickly and talk more about the virtues of the alternative suppliers.

3. Pick your time carefully

We are all either ‘morning’ or ‘evening’ people, i.e. perform better either earlier or later in the day. Villejoubert et al. ₆ have found that Belief Perseverance is lower when evidence is considered at a person’s optimum time of day, when their capacity to think deliberatively and with effort is at its best. So if your stakeholder is a morning person, hold your project discussions with him in the morning.

4. Keep the ‘feel good’ factor

Belief Perseverance is stronger when the belief enhances the self-image of the stakeholder ₇. If you are to get agreement to move away from the incumbent supplier, you must ensure that the stakeholder still looks and feels good if alternative suppliers are used. Avoid ‘egg-on-face’ situations.

Watch out for more tips in the next instalment…

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₁ Utting, M., & Cuin, K. (2009). 1.4 Stakeholder Mapping. In M. Utting, & K. Cuin, The Essential Guide to Supply Chain Management: Part 1. Strategic Sourcing. SpringTide Consulting Ltd.
₂ Ross, L., Lepper, M., & Hubbard, M. (1975). Perseverance in self-perception and social perception: biased attributional processes in the debriefing paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 880-892.
₃, ₇ Arnold, C. (2013). Diss information: is there a way to stop popular falsehoods from morphing into “facts”? (Scientific American) Retrieved May 8, 2014, from Scientific American: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-to-stop-misinformation-from-becoming-popular-belief/
₄ Robbins, A. (2001). Awaken the Giant Within: Take immediate control of your mental, emotional, physical and financial destiny. London: Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.
₅ Lewandowsky, S., Ecker, U. K., Seifert, C. M., Schwarz, N., & Cook, J. (2012, December). Misinformation and its correction: continued influence and successful debiasing. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 13, pp. 106-131.
₆Villejoubert, G., Khan, M., & Vallee-Tourangeau, F. (2013). The role of circadian variations and socially distributed thinking in belief perseverance. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (Ed.), Cooperative Minds: Social Interaction and Group Dynamics: Proceedings of the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science Society, Berlin, Germany 31 July-3 August 2013 (pp. 1534-1539). Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.