Skip to main content

Author David McRaney to give Go Big Read keynote Nov. 7

October 24, 2023 By Käri Knutson
A picture of a man, and a picture of the book he wrote: How Minds Change.

“The ability to change our minds, update our assumptions, and entertain other points of view is one of our greatest strengths, an evolved ability that comes free with every copy of the human brain,” McRaney writes.

“This sounds like a book.”

Those words of encouragement from David McRaney’s wife, Amanda, helped the journalist take his lifetime of curiosity to write How Minds Change: The Surprising Science of Belief, Opinion, and Persuasion.

McRaney will discuss his book with Chancellor Jennifer L. Mnookin at this year’s Go Big Read keynote event on Nov. 7 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Memorial Union’s Shannon Hall. No tickets are required for this free, in-person event, which will also be livestreamed. To access the livestream link, please visit

“This timely book gives us all an opportunity to challenge our own beliefs and assumptions, and to recognize the importance of empathetic listening,” Mnookin says.

By delving into the latest research of psychologists and neuroscientists, McRaney’s book offers new ways to understand disagreements and to bring about both change and cognitive empathy at work, at home, and in our personal relationships.

“I learned as much about how minds change from the journey to these final words as I did from the research behind them,” McRaney writes. That research included conversations with cult members, conspiracy theorists and political activists, from Westboro Baptist Church picketers to LGBTQ campaigners in California.

But instead of focusing on what people believe, McRaney focuses more on why people believe the way they do. He offers surprising evidence from psychology and neuroscience to explain what tends to be persuasive and what is at the root of what we believe.

“When the truth is uncertain, our brains resolve that uncertainty without our knowledge by creating the most likely reality they can imagine based on our prior experiences,” he writes.

While that’s our natural tendency, McRaney encourages us to think about the way we think and listen to others with compassion instead of judgment.

“If you join David McRaney on this journey – a spirited tour that ranges from activist to scientists to cultists – you’ll arrive in an unexpected place,” says Daniel H. Pink, the bestselling author of Drive and When. “He shows us how generous conversations can replace zero-sum debates and how genuine empathy can close deep divisions. ‘How Minds Change’ is the ideal book for our perilous moment.”

McRaney is a bestselling author, science journalist, and lecturer. In 2009 McRaney created the blog and podcast You Are Not So Smart, interviewing scientists who study the psychology of reasoning and decision-making. In 2012 the blog became an internationally bestselling book by the same name, followed by McRaney’s second book You Are Now Less Dumb in 2013. McRaney received a degree in journalism from the University of Southern Mississippi, and his writing has been featured in Politico, Salon, Boing Boing, The Atlantic and elsewhere.

The Go Big Read program is an initiative of the Office of the Chancellor. It engages members of the campus community and beyond in a shared, academically focused reading experience.