Gardner recapitulates MadeToStick with his 7 principles for changing minds. We are more able to change others' minds when our ideas have reason (logic), research (accumulated facts), resonance (jives with prior experience), redescriptive power (reframing so that it fits a larger pattern), resources and rewards (sticks and carrots), real world events in their favor (generally accepted facts), and disable resistance (defeat expected criticisms).
This book needs a theory of Opinion Formation; from that theory, we could determine whether his rubric made internal sense, and then check it against our own understanding of the world. Since Gardner doesn't provide one, I had to make do with a motivation-based theory.
In general, we have several observable innate tendencies:
We form and maintain opinions in as much as they help us obtain any of the above. Our brains modulate this learning process, favoring evidence presented in a format (narrative, images, functional process, etc.) that our brains process easily.
- find patterns in the world around us
- obtain most results with the minimum of cost
- consume resources
- find other humans we want to be with
As much as I heart science, I realize that our capacity for self-deception seems limitless. We only have to look to generally accepted well-evidenced history and we can find many who deny that certain parts of history occurred. Typically, these people belong to a group who all deny that "version" of history, so they seem to favor belonging to the group over dropping an apparently broken pattern.
Returning to Gardner, he places the narrative over all other learning modalities (visual, functional, etc.). To what extent does narrative trump images or processes? Since they do not seem mutually exclusive, would not a combination of as many modalities work better by reaching a larger audience (like modern advertisements)?
With his Seven Principles, Gardner fails to note that intentionally precluding reason and research from one's argument can be quite powerful when someone's previous patterns of understanding do not seem functional (religion in times of great stress). Or that temporary abdications of responsibility ( Milgram's experiment ) can get you the same results as changing one's minds (especially when repeated over time and leads the person to rationalize their actions).
I guess this means that he failed on the Reason, Resonance, and Redescriptive Power fronts. ;)