Brandeis Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (BOLLI)

How minds change: Navigating divided societies

Course Number


Study Group Leader (SGL)

Steven Klein


This course will take place virtually on Zoom. Participation in this course requires a device (ideally a computer or tablet, rather than a cell phone) with a camera and microphone in good working order and basic familiarity with using Zoom and accessing email  

10-Week Course

Feb. 28 - May 8. No Class April 24.


Can we still have a civil conversation with people we disagree with over sensitive issues like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the culture wars, Covid or presidential politics? Friends and perhaps even family members whom we know and love seem to have become unhinged from reality. It can feel sometimes as if we are living on different planets, each with separate sets of facts. We may desperately want to change others’ minds, especially when we fear their beliefs or opinions have harmful implications, but the situation can seem hopeless. This course provides a scientific basis for understanding how this chasm is formed and charts a possible path forward by offering tools of persuasion. By understanding how beliefs are formed and can change, we develop a healthier perspective about ideological schisms and acquire constructive conversational tools. We’ll cover techniques like deep canvassing and street epistemology; concepts like disambiguation, perceptual assumptions, assimilation and accommodation; and skills like arguing and persuasion. Participants will also have opportunities to practice using these tools. Practice sessions will be co-facilitated by Rivka Klein-de Graaf, a relationship specialist and Steve's spouse. By taking this course, you will learn the scientific processes that explain how people change their minds about their beliefs and opinions; understand the benefits, risks and moral issues of engaging others in opinion- or belief-changing conversations; and acquire the tools to engage in skilled conversations with people who think differently. 

Group Leadership Style

Roughly the same amount of lecture and discussion.

Course Materials

How Minds Change by David McRaney. Portfolio/Penguin. 2022. ISBN 9780593190296 (hardcover) or 9780593190302 (ebook)    

Preparation Time

1.5 hours; 20-40 pages (300 pages in total).


Dr. Steven J. Klein has taught about Israeli society and Jewish peoplehood since 1992 for programs ranging from Young Judaea Year Course in Israel to Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University. He has been teaching online since March 2020, both independently and for Case Western Reserve’s Siegal Lifelong Learning program, Duke OLLI and the Rabbi Samuel Scolnic Adult Institute. Raised in Minnesota and North Carolina, he moved to Israel in 1991. He is currently a senior editor and contributor at Haaretz English Edition, living with his beloved family in Modi’in.