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‘Persuasion Fatigue’ Is a Unique Form of Social Frustration

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The holiday season is upon us again. With it, many of us brace for dinner-table debates. In an era of social discord, viral misinformation and pandemic-induced stress, arguing with other people is an invitation to exasperation.

One common scene plays out as follows. You want to convince a friend or a family member of something you know they disagree with you about, so you share information and walk through your reasoning with them. They reject your case. Undaunted, you brush up on the issue and try again, optimistic that more facts will shift the other person’s thinking. You repeat yourself—maybe more loudly and slowly. But your audience remains unmoved.

How do you react when your powers of persuasion fail? You might dismiss the person who doesn’t heed your arguments as biased, dimwitted or otherwise out of touch with reality. You naturally feel your own logic is irresistible. You might decide to stop talking about that particular issue. You might even cut ties. Indeed, these unresolved debates can contribute to social estrangement and parent-child breakups.

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