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For A Change In Attitude, Agree Extremely

Update Date: Jul 18, 2014 09:02 AM EDT

Agreeing with people can be surprisingly powerful way to shake up strongly held beliefs, according to a new research. 

Researchers found that showing people extreme versions of ideas that confirmed their opinions caused them to reconsider their stand and become more open-minded to other point of view. 

"We truly believe that in most intractable conflicts, the real problems are not the real issues," said Eran Halperin, a psychologist at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel and an author of the study. In reality, he said, both sides know what needs to be done; however, there are many "psychological barriers that prevent societies from identifying opportunities for peace."

To further test their findings, scientists considered one of the most polarizing issues on the planet - the decades-old conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Researchers recruited more than 150 Israelis and exposed half of them to video clips that related the conflict with Palestinians back to values that many Israelis hold dear. The other half of the participants were shown neutral TV commercials and served as a control. 

When the researchers showed participants a video that claimed Israel should continue the conflict so that its citizens could continue to feel moral, people reacted angrily. 

"For example, the fact that they are the most moral society in the world is one of the most basic beliefs of Israeli society," Halperin said.

"You take people's most basic beliefs and turn them into something that is absurd. For an outsider, it can sound like a joke, but for them, you are playing with their most fundamental belief."

The study has been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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