Empower people to express their doubts with well-framed questions. Strengthen the cultural norm that requires us to yield to better reasons (rather than defy them to protect dysfunctional beliefs, desires, and attitudes).
Teach kids the scientific attitude. This is essential to proper idea-testing and healthy mental immune function. Help everyone grasp that idea-testing is a team sport—we need to take account of other people's doubts and challenges to gain deep immunity.
Activate mental antibodies. Help people understand that doubts and qualms are the mind's antibodies—we must listen to them if we hope to develop strong mental immunity.
Diagnose and treat mental immune disorders (habits of mind that interfere with rigorous idea-filtering). Cultivate the growth mindset (the fixed mindset is in fact a mental immune disorder).
Inoculate minds against misinformation, science denial, and propaganda. Develop "mind-vaccines"—instructional interventions that confer immunity to especially troublesome ideas and tendencies of thought.
Upgrade the brain's antivirus software—our standards of reasonable belief function like the "virus definitions" in antivirus software, but the standard our culture "preinstalls" in most of us exacerbates confirmation bias.
Encourage people to believe responsibly. Willful belief, which does not welcome contrary evidence or challenges of any kind, subverts mental immune health. Instead, promote the cultural norm that requires us to entertain doubts and, when presented with them, to yield to better reasons.
Teach people not to identify with their beliefs. Identity-protective cognition, in which people refuse any ideas that might threaten their sense of self, compromises mental immunity.
Instill fair-mindedness online. When people weaponize critical thinking skills and reasons, they fuel the culture wars that compromise the mental immune health of everyone involved. Redesign education to confer deep immunity to toxic and divisive ideologies and teach best practices for online communication.
Use this guide as a strategy for developing mental immunity in your classroom, organization, or in your private life.
Note: No one tool for a constructive dialogue will fit every circumstance. Power imbalances create special challenges—situational awareness, sensitivity, and judgment are always needed to apply the guidelines properly.
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