- Fallacies and Other Types of Manipulative Arguments (supplement)
- Persuasive Speech (supplement)
- Argument Analysis Essay (example)
- Annotated Bibliography (example)
The following essays have been reformatted for publication. Please follow the manuscript formatting guidelines provided by your instructor.
- How do I recognize fallacies?
- What is a common cause fallacy?
- What is a reverse causation fallacy?
- What is inductive reasoning by analogy?
- What is required for an appropriate analogy?
- What is a syllogism?
- What is a categorical syllogism?
- When is a categorical syllogism a fallacy?
- What is an if/then syllogism?
- When is an if/then syllogism a fallacy?
- When is a generalization inappropriate?
- How do I evaluate a generalization in my source?
- What are either/or arguments?
- When is an either/or argument a fallacy?
- How can the premises of an argument affect an author’s ethos?
- What is a red herring?
- What are additional examples of fallacies of ethos?
- What are additional examples of fallacies of logos?
- What are additional examples of fallacies of pathos?
- How can poor word choice lead to fallacies?
- How does the rhetorical triangle apply to an analysis of King’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”?
1. HOW DO I RECOGNIZE FALLACIES?
How can you determine whether a writer or speaker makes sound use of reasoning and evidence and demonstrates fairness toward opponents—specifically, how can you determine whether that author avoids fallacies such as unsupported claims or inappropriate appeals to emotion or authority?
You can begin by using the STAR* criteria (Sufficiency, Typicality, Accuracy, and Relevancy) to assess the logos—the reasoning and evidence—of an argument. At the outset, an argument may at least appear to be rational and well-supported. If so, you may be inclined to evaluate the argument favorably in terms of logos, as well as being impressed by the writer or speaker’s ethos, based as it is on her ability to project authority.
But familiarizing yourself with common fallacies will allow you take a closer look before you decide that an argument is indeed persuasive. For example, the “facts” offered by the author might seem credible, but what if they are framed using dysphemisms that demonize people who sincerely disagree with the position taken by the writer or speaker? Or what if the argument is phrased in god terms that don’t seem to leave room for an honest debate of a complex issue? What if the language evokes excessive emotion or tries to stampede the audience into accepting a position because “everyone else does”? Strategies such as these mark manipulative language and likely signal the presence of fallacies.
*To review the STAR criteria, see the answer to the following questions in the CORE 101 section of the Handbook under the Academic Argument assignment: How can you use STAR to assess appeals to logos? and What makes evidence relevant, not just related?
Two events occur close together so that an observer concludes that one event causes the other. However, both events in fact may be caused by a third event. For example, a child may be squinting and complaining of headaches. An adult suggests that if the child stopped squinting the headaches would go away. However, the adult is mistaken in concluding that the squinting causes the headaches because both squinting and headaches are caused by a third factor: the child is nearsighted. Once the correct cause is identified, glasses are prescribed, and two problems are solved simultaneously.
|Fallacious cause-and-effect reasoning||Sound cause-and-effect reasoning|
3. WHAT IS A REVERSE CAUSATION FALLACY?
Two events occur close together so that an observer concludes that one event causes the other. However, the observer may have mistaken cause for effect, and vice versa. For example, the observer concludes that alcohol abuse has caused an individual to develop a mental illness. However, a mentally ill individual may use alcohol to ‘self-medicate’. The alcohol abuse may be the result of mental illness rather than the cause of it.
|Fallacious cause-and-effect reasoning||Sound cause-and-effect reasoning|
4. WHAT IS INDUCTIVE REASONING BY ANALOGY?
Inductive reasoning by analogy depends upon two objects, events, or situations having a quality in common. The next move is to argue that because they have the one quality in common, they are likely to have a second quality in common.
Imagine that a shopper knows that an orange and a tangelo are both citrus fruits. The shopper also knows that oranges are high in vitamin C. She has been advised by her doctor that she needs to increase her vitamin C uptake. Arriving at a grocery store near closing, she notices that the oranges are sold out. However, knowing that oranges and tangelos have in common the quality of being citrus fruits, by analogy she concludes that tangelos likely also share with oranges the quality of being good sources of vitamin C. With several tangelos in her basket, the shopper proceeds to the checkout.
5. WHAT IS REQUIRED FOR AN APPROPRIATE ANALOGY?
Analogy is a common and often useful form of argumentation. However, speakers and writers must be on the watch for faulty analogies, which arise from the fallacy of assuming that because two things are alike in one or more respects, they are necessarily alike in other ways. For example, two people may have similar tastes in dress, music, movies, and reading preferences. It does not follow, however, that the two individuals will share religious or political beliefs.
So if a speaker or writer argues by analogy, ask yourself whether a shared quality is relevant to, and therefore predictive of, the presence of a second shared quality. Also be alert to the existence of dissimilarities between the two items that may undermine the argument.
6. WHAT IS A SYLLOGISM?
The term syllogism is applied to the distinctive form of argument that is the application of deductive reasoning. A syllogism includes two premises that are compared against each other in order to infer a conclusion.
The following is an example of a syllogism:
- Major Premise: No insect is warm-blooded.
- Minor Premise: The wasp is an insect.
- Conclusion: No wasp is warm-blooded.
In this syllogism members of a category do not possess a certain characteristic (major premise). An individual is in that category (minor premise). Therefore, that individual cannot possess the characteristic (conclusion).
7. WHAT IS A CATEGORICAL SYLLOGISM?
The example syllogism in the previous section is a categorical syllogism. In a categorical syllogism, the major premise will state something that will be taken as an absolute (categorical) starting point, and the minor premise will be examined against this absolute starting point in order to infer the conclusion.
Examples of categorical statements:
- All raccoons are omnivores.
- No insect is warm-blooded.
- Some mammals are omnivores.
- Some mammals are not omnivores.
A categorical syllogism can be fallacious either because a premise is untrue or because the relationship between the major and minor premise does not support the conclusion.
- Untrue premise leading to a fallacious conclusion:
Major premise: All swimming vertebrates are fish.
Minor premise: The whale is a swimming vertebrate.
Conclusion: The whale is a fish.
In fact, not all swimming vertebrates are fish so the conclusion that the whale is a fish is unsound.
- Relationship between major and minor premise does not support conclusion:
Major premise: Some instructors lack a sense of humor.
Minor premise: Kim is an instructor.
Conclusion: Kim lacks a sense of humor.
Certainly somewhere in the world an instructor must lack a sense of humor, so let us agree that the major premise is true. Let us also agree that the Kim in the minor premise is an instructor. Still, the conclusion is unsound because it is impossible to determine whether Kim belongs to the group that lacks a sense of humor. A major premise that states that only some members of a group have a characteristic can never set the stage for concluding that any particular member of the group has that characteristic.
9. WHAT IS AN IF/THEN SYLLOGISM?
An alternative name for the if/then syllogism is the hypothetical syllogism, but you may find it handy to use the if/then label because the characteristic sign of such a syllogism is the ‘if/then’ in the major premise. Here are the two common forms:
- Major premise: If A then B.
- Minor premise: A is true.
- Conclusion: Therefore, B is true
- Major premise: If the price of steel goes up then car production goes down.
- Minor premise: The price of steel goes up.
- Conclusion: Therefore, car production goes down.
- Major premise: If A then B.
- Minor premise: B is not true.
- Conclusion: Therefore, A is not true
- Major premise: If student scores rise then the state pays a bonus to the school district.
- Minor premise: The state did not pay a bonus to the school district.
- Conclusion: Therefore, student scores did not rise.
10. When is an if/then syllogism a fallacy?
Remember that a syllogism may be fallacious if a premise is false. In the case of the either/or fallacy, the major premise must accurately capture a logical relationship—that is, the ‘if’ must actually be a condition for the ‘then’. An if/then syllogism also may be fallacious if the major premise oversimplifies matters by identifying only one condition when in fact several are necessary.
Example of a fallacious if/then syllogism:
- Major premise: If her overall GPA is 2.0 then she will graduate.
- Minor premise: Her overall GPA is 2.0.
- Conclusion: Therefore, she will graduate.
What if the student’s major has a GPA requirement as well? For example, a department may require a 2.5 GPA for all courses taken for the major.
11. When is a generalization inappropriate?
Two types of sampling fallacies will make generalizing inappropriate:
Hasty generalization: The sample is simply too small to be a reliable basis for claims about the target population. The smaller the sample, the more likely that results will be skewed by atypical results.
Think, for example, about what a student’s class average would look after an initial quiz if he happened to fail it. If you were that student, you would not want your instructor to draw any conclusions based on that one quiz! By the end of the semester, however, an instructor will have more ‘data points’ so that it will be apparent whether or not a particular quiz was an outlier. The sample size will be large enough to swallow up an atypical result so that the instructor can arrive at a realistic assessment of the student’s performance.
Biased sample: The sample is not sufficiently representative of the target population. Perhaps the sample was not randomly selected as it should be in scientific sampling; or if the sample was of a diverse population, perhaps the sample was too small to capture representatives of all subpopulations.
Sometimes a sample is biased because of a poorly designed study or because of procedures that cause one group to be underrepresented (or not represented at all). Until 1993 women of childbearing years were excluded from pharmaceutical testing so medications that were prescribed for both men and women were in fact only tested on men, and even today women are underrepresented in such studies (Moyer, 2010, n.p.).
In other cases, the bias may have been introduced by a researcher who was invested in arriving at a certain result. For example, claims in a report based on case studies of twelve autistic children ultimately were rejected by other researchers in the field when evidence was uncovered that the researcher might have had a financial interest in reaching one conclusion as opposed to a different one.
First, look for information in the source about the sample upon which the generalization is based. It is a bad sign if you cannot find that information. Second, if the information is present, determine whether the sample is sufficiently large and representative. Has the source avoided the hasty generalization and biased sample fallacies? Third, if possible try to test out the generalization by applying it. Generalizations are reached by looking at a sample and drawing a conclusion that is applicable to all the individuals in that sample. But once a generalization has been reached, it can be applied to individuals who were not in the original sample in order to make predictions about those individuals. Applying generalizations to make predictions in this fashion is a vital tool some fields, such as in the social and behavioral sciences.
Imagine that your source is a large nationwide study that reports that 85% of all college students receive financial aid at some point during their college years. You would infer from that claim that roughly 85% of your classmates have received financial aid. You could test that prediction by surveying your classmates.
Of course, as you test your source’s generalization, you yourself will now be in the business of formulating a generalization. Is your sample size large enough? Is your sample representative of the same types of students who were reported on by the source? Always remember that the strength of generalizations and of the predictions based upon them is not a matter of certainty. Instead, you can only assess degrees of reliability, basing your assessment on the size and quality of the sample.
13. What are either/or arguments?
One common type of deductive argument involves examining two alternatives. If one alternative is ruled out, then the second one must be chosen. This is an either/or argument.
Premise: Either the city council votes for stop signs or the city council votes for a traffic circle.
Premise: The city council does not vote for a traffic circle.
Conclusion: Therefore, the city council votes for stop signs.
14. When is an either/or argument a fallacy?
Remember that a deductive argument may be fallacious if a premise is false. In the case of the either/or fallacy, a premise may set up a false dilemma—that is, a premise may offer a choice between only two alternatives when more exist. Here, for example, is a fallacious premise: Either we allocate the requested amount for the program or we do not fund the program at all.
The premise ignores the fact that the program or some aspects could be partially funded or that funding could be phased in over a period of time. In the context of a budget debate, an argument based on such a premise could be manipulative—an attempt to pressure a vote in favor of funding by suggesting that the only alternative would be a complete shutdown of the program.
15. How can the premises of an argument affect an author’s ethos?
The previous questions have focused on evaluating logos-based appeals by examining their premises, but as you analyze an argument, also consider what the premises allow an audience to gather about an author’s credibility—that is, about the ethos-based appeal implicit in every argument. Does the author construct his argument on a foundation of poorly sourced (or unsourced) premises? Does the author appeal for support to premises that are based upon insufficient or biased samples? Does the author rely on unstated or suppressed premises that should be brought out into the open and debated? These would be flaws in the logos of an argument, but they also reflect poorly upon the ethos of the author who relies upon such premises. Can you trust an author who ‘plays fast and loose’ with the premises of his argument?
16. What is a red herring?
A red herring fallacy diverts the attention of the audience from the real issue. It often is considered a logos-related fallacy because it involves the introduction of an irrelevant topic into an argument, but some ethos and pathos-related fallacies may also be classified as red herrings, too, because they operate by introducing elements that distract the audience from the actual issues.
The red herring fallacy is mentioned separately here because it may be treated as a category, with other fallacies listed under it. Fallacies that bring up irrelevant topics or issues and so may be considered red-herring fallacies include the smoke screen fallacy, but may also include the guilt by association and straw man fallacies, and the appeal to popularity (bandwagon) fallacy and other fallacies that appeal to emotion.
17. What are additional examples of fallacies of ethos?
Name-calling: labeling an opponent with words that have negative connotations in an effort to undermine the opponent’s credibility.
Example: “These rabble-rousers are nothing but feminazis.”
Plain folk: presenting yourself as (or associating your position with) ordinary people with whom you hope your audience will identify; arguers imply that they or their supporters are trustworthy because they are ‘common people’ rather than members of the elite.
Example: “Who would you vote for—someone raised in a working-class neighborhood who has the support of Joe the Plumber or some elitist whose daddy sent him to a fancy school?”
Testimonial fallacy: inserting an endorsement of the argument by someone who is popular or respected but who lacks expertise or authority in the area under discussion.
Example: “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV”—a famous example of a celebrity endorsement for a cough syrup (Deis, 2011, n.p.).
18. What are additional examples of fallacies of logos?
Non-sequitur: Latin for “does not follow”; the conclusion cannot be inferred from the premises because there is a break in the logical connection between a claim and the premises that are meant to support it, either because a premise is untrue (or missing) or because the relationship between premises does not support the deduction stated in the claim.
Example (untrue premise):“If she is a Radford student, she is a member of a sorority. She is a Radford student. Therefore she is a member of a sorority.”
Smoke screen: avoiding the real issue or a tough question by introducing an unrelated topic as a distraction; sometimes called a red herring. See What is a red herring?
Example: “My opponent says I am weak on crime, but I have been one of the most reliable participants in city council meetings.”
Straw man: pretending to criticize an opponent’s position but actually misrepresenting his or her view as simpler and/or more extreme than it is and therefore easier to refute than the original or actual position; unfairly undermines credibility of claim if not source of claim.
Example: “Senator Smith says we should cut back the Defense budget. His position is that we should let down our defenses and just trust our enemies not to attack us!”
19. What are additional examples of fallacies of pathos?
Appeal to the people:also called stirring symbols fallacy; the communicator distracts the readers or listeners with symbols that are very meaningful to them, with strong associations or connotations.
Example: This fallacy is referred to in the sentence “That politician always wraps himself in the flag.”
Appeal to tradition: people have been done it a certain way for a long time; assumes that what has been customary in past is correct and proper.
Example: “A boy always serves as student-body president; a girl always serves as secretary.”
Loaded-Language and other emotionally charged uses of language: using slanted or biased language, including God terms, devil terms, euphemisms, and dysphemisms.
Examples: For illustrations of loaded-language and other types of emotionally charged language, review the material under How do effective communicators choose language for their arguments?
20. How can poor word choice lead to fallacies?
The use of ambiguous or imprecise language can lead a writer to commit a linguistic fallacy. Two such fallacies are equivocation and amphiboly.
Equivocation: ambiguity resulting from a shift between two different meanings of a term.
The word “theory” has an everyday sense—captured in the dismissive phrase “it’s just a theory”—but it also has a technical or scientific meaning—captured in the phrase “Theory of Relativity,” in which the term refers to an explanatory description of a certain phenomenon. (Sometimes this explanatory description is ‘written’ in mathematical symbols).
An argument that started out using the word in one sense but then switched to the other meaning would be an equivocal argument. An argument that, without notice, switched back and forth between the two meanings of “theory” would be an equivocal argument.
Amphiboly: ambiguity resulting from syntax or sentence structure; a phrase or sentence can be read as making two different claims.
Does the sentence “She saw a man with binoculars” mean that she saw a man through her binoculars or that she saw a man who had binoculars of his own? Does the sentence “He shot a tourist with a camera” mean that he used his camera to take a photo of a tourist or that he used a gun to shoot a tourist who was holding a camera?
21. How does the rhetorical triangle apply to an analysis of King’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”?
Read Letter from Birmingham City Jail (excerpts) written by Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 16, 1963.
Pathos: Persuasion through Passion
1) As the weeks and months unfolded, we realized that we were the victims of a broken promise. The signs remained. As in so many experiences of the past, we were confronted with blasted hopes, and the dark shadow of a deep disappointment settled upon us.
In example #1 note the use of emotionally charged language that portrays one side in the ethical debate in a particular light. Terms like ‘victims’ and ‘broken promises’ cast a sympathetic light on King and his followers especially when compounded with violent or frightening words like ‘blasted’, or ‘dark shadows’, and ‘deep disappointment’.
2) I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness” — then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
Example #2 reveals the use of pathos in creating the vicarious depiction of the plight of the victims of racial oppression. By layering example after example of experiences and scenes of racial injustice the audience is carried along in a mounting wave of moral indignation and outrage concerning the existence of such conditions. This automatically creates sympathy and identification with the victimized (King’s) side in the argument.
3) The other force is one of bitterness and hatred and comes perilously close to advocating violence. It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that are springing up over the nation, the largest and best known being Elijah Muhammad’s Muslim movement. This movement is nourished by the contemporary frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination. It is made up of people who have lost faith in America, who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded that the white man in an incurable “devil.”
Example #3 uses the implied threat of violence to play on the popular fears of the black-nationalist movements of the time. Characterizing King’s own faction as the safe and rational alternative to a bloody racial conflagration. While this may have been perfectly accurate in terms of predicting the likely outcomes of the social conditions at the time it is still a strong example of the kind of emotional appeal, in this case to fear, that pathos represents.
Ethos: Persuasion through Authority
4) But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable term.
Example #4 is an example of ethos building by exhibition of character traits an audience will find appealing. The speaker is generous without being deferential and appears to be committed to open-minded and rational appraisal of the merits of the argument. This is in direct opposition to the ad hominem fallacy and its effects on any critically aware audience. This depicts the speaker as intellectually responsible.
5) I have the honor of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization operating in every Southern state, with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty-five affiliate organizations all across the South, one being the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.
Example #5 is a classic example of ethos building by reference to the speaker’s professional accomplishments and accolades. In this approach the speaker builds authority by directly describing their fitness to be considered an expert on the topic and therefore the relevance of their judgements.
Logos: Persuasion through Reason
6) Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in the United States. Its ugly record of police brutality is known in every section of this country. Its unjust treatment of Negroes in the courts is a notorious reality. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in this nation. These are the hard, brutal, and unbelievable facts. On the basis of them, Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the political leaders consistently refused to engage in good-faith negotiation.
Example #6 uses the rational strategy of accumulating examples to act as proof. This is akin to the listing of premises that stand in the proper relations of support to a conclusion and thereby act as warrant for its adoption. The terrible history of Birmingham’s violence toward African Americans in a large number of instances make King’s decision to protest there rationally supported.
7) We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter.
Example #7 uses the rational strategy of comparison to support its conclusion. When King compares the plight of the African American to the social and legal progress being made by much less developed nations toward political and social equality he creates a strong piece of evidence to support his argument.
- What is inflammatory language?
- What is the difference between denotation and connotation?
- Why should I pay careful attention to denotation?
- Why should I pay careful attention to connotation?
- Why is inflammatory language an inappropriate means of persuasion?
- How can I use my intonation, pause, rate, and pitch to engage my audience?
- How can I use my posture, hand gestures, and body movement to engage my audience?
- How can I use eye contact and facial expressions to engage my audience?
1. What is inflammatory language?
Inflammatory language is wording that stirs up emotions (often negative) in an audience or that attacks or demeans others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. One example would be name-calling. This and other forms of inflammatory language should be avoided in speech and in writing.
To avoid inflammatory language, know your audience. Understanding your audience will help you choose language that will create shared meaning without provoking unpleasant emotions or putting people down.
Keep in mind that it does not matter what you meant to say, only how your audience perceives what you said. So choose your words carefully with the goal of transmitting an understandable message without making audience members angry or defensive. Once they experience those emotions, they are unlikely to hear what you are trying to say.
See also the answers to these questions under the Argument Analysis assignment: How do I recognize when an appeal to pathos is manipulative? and What uses of language are inappropriate?
2. What is the difference between denotation and connotation?
The meaning of a word as it is defined in a dictionary is its denotation.
Connotation is an implicit meaning or an association that becomes attached to a word. The meanings or associations may be based on context, or they may be attached to a word because of a reader or listener’s personal attitudes, beliefs, and experiences.
The denotation of “dog” is a four-legged animal (a quadruped) in the genus canis. On the level of denotation, a speaker who states “I have a dog” is conveying no more than these facts.
On the level of connotation, the word “dog” carries with it associations, whether or not the speaker intends it to. One listener may fill out the picture suggested by the word “dog” by visualizing a Great Dane; to another a dog may mean a Chihuahua. Other listeners, either consciously or unconsciously, may bring with them pleasant or unpleasant memories involving dogs.
3. Why should I pay careful attention to denotation?
Choosing words with denotations that match what you are trying to say is an important element in any appeal to logos. Careful attention to denotation will strengthen the clarity and precision of your argument and will help you avoid generalizations and ambiguity that equate to misinformation. This accuracy and attention to denotation will help you build and support your claims.
By reinforcing the logic of your argument, words carefully chosen for their denotation also enhance your credibility. You project thoroughness and thoughtfulness. On the other hand, sloppy choice of vocabulary—using “infer” for “imply,” for example—hurts your ethos.
4. Why should I pay careful attention to connotation?
A word’s denotation may be unbiased, but its connotation implies an additional layer of meaning that may be strongly value-laden. This layer exists regardless of the intention of the speaker or writer because the audience brings its attitudes, beliefs, and experiences with them and attaches them to the words that the speaker or writer uses. For example, an audience may attach certain values to words like “natural” or “immigrant” or “juvenile” or “gun control.”
Careful use of connotation may create pathos and help a speaker or writer build rapport with her audience. However, connotation should not be used to provoke strong emotional responses as a way of making up for weak logos. Reliance on strongly connotative language in the absence of evidence and reason is a type of inflammatory language and should be avoided.
See also the answers to these questions under the Argument Analysis assignment: How do I recognize when an appeal to pathos is manipulative? and What uses of language are inappropriate?
5. Why is inflammatory language an inappropriate means of persuasion?
Inflammatory writing may backfire for three reasons:
- Inflammatory language may offend members of your audience and put them on the defensive. Research shows that once people become defensive, they are no longer interested in listening to a message. Offended listeners and readers reject or tune out arguments.
- Inflammatory language can only temporarily paper over the absence of evidence and reason. Inexperienced speakers sometimes use inflammatory language when they think the audience agrees with the message but needs to be persuaded to believe it more strongly or to act upon it. However, whether or not your audience agrees with your argument, the emotional high created by inflammatory language does not last long. If you cannot back your position through appeals to ethos and logos, audience members will have little reason to continue to be influenced by your argument once their emotions have subsided.
- Inflammatory language weakens your ethos. Inflammatory language is by its nature biased and manipulative. Use of biased and manipulative language in the end will have a negative impact on the audience and its perception of you and therefore of your message.
See also the answers to these questions under the Argument Analysis assignment: How do I recognize when an appeal to pathos is manipulative? and What uses of language are inappropriate?
6. How can I use my intonation, pause, rate, and pitch to engage my audience?
Elements of vocal delivery include the following:
- Rate: how quickly or slowly someone speaks. Different cultures may favor different rates of speech, so your rate can send a message about where you might be from. In terms of how your audience receives your message, if you speak too quickly the audience may infer you are nervous or trying to rush through the message, but if you speak too slowly listeners may wonder why you are dragging something out.
- Pauses: breaks in a message. Pauses should be purposeful. For example, a pause may emphasize a point, or it may allow the audience time to take in and process a message. You might pause in your speech to allow your audience to grasp a startling statistic, or you might pause after summarizing one point and before moving on to the next.
- Pitch: rate at which the vocal chords vibrate: The faster the rate of vibrations, the higher the pitch. Pitch is something a speaker can regulate (unlike voice quality, which cannot be adjusted—think Gilbert Godfrey or Fran Drescher) and can be adjusted as a way of emphasizing points. High-pitched voices often are perceived negatively.
- Intonation: changes in pitch. Intonation can change the meaning of a word. For example, saying “right” briskly may send a message of agreement. Yet saying the word in a drawn-out fashion, as “rriiiiigggghhhhhtttt ,” can connote sarcasm, in which the meaning actually is opposite of the verbal message. Be aware of your intonation and use it purposefully.
7. How can I use my posture, hand gestures, and body movement to engage my audience?
Elements of physical delivery include the following:
- Posture: how you hold your body while standing or sitting. Standing too straight may make you seem closed off and stiff; on the other hand, leaning over things may make you appear too nonchalant—even bored or lazy. Your goal is to appear open and natural.
- Hand Gestures: movement of the hands. Gestures should be used with meaning. Palm-open gestures often are seen as open and inviting, while palm-down gestures may be seen as dominating. Nervous actions, such as touching your hair repeatedly, may interfere with your ability to use hand gestures successfully. Holding items also may interfere with your successful use of hand gestures, so ask yourself whether you really need to hold a pen and be willing to set down your notes.
- Body Movement: conscious or unconscious shifting of all or part of your body. Some movement is important, but too much movement can be distracting. Like hand gestures, body movement should have meaning. For example, you may step to a screen and point out an image or a chart relevant at that point in your presentation. Examples of distracting movements include pacing or fidgeting. Practice how you will move at the same time you practice your verbal delivery.
8. How can I use eye contact and facial expressions to engage my audience?
Also important to nonverbal delivery are the following:
- Eye contact: In the US, it is considered essential for a speaker to look directly into the faces of her listeners. If a speaker does not look an audience in the eye, the listeners may not believe what she is saying. Make it a point to scan the room during a speech and make eye contact with members of your audience.
- Facial Expressions: In the US, the face is considered the most telltale part of the body. To avoid confusing your audience, monitor your expressions to ensure that they support your verbal message. For example, do not talk about something sad with a smile on your face.
This essay has been reformatted for publication. The formatting does not represent the proper APA manuscript format.
Argument Analysis on Steven Colbert
Steven Colbert’s testimony before Congress begins with him discussing American farms relying strictly on immigrants for their labor. The premise of the argument is if the government allows work-willing immigrant workers to obtain more visas; that this legal status and the right to demand compensation will hopefully establish better working conditions and pay. In conclusion, Colbert hopes that after working conditions improve, more Americans will take up these agricultural jobs. Although that is his hope, Colbert does not believe this will happen. His sarcastic comments concerning migrant labor demonstrate to the audience that Colbert actually approves of migrant workers in America; rather than against their occupation. Colbert’s testimony was comical, yet his argument proved ineffective because it included very little logos, ethos and pathos and it consisted of little information regarding solutions to the migrant problem. His argument also demonstrated inefficiency because of the presence of fallacies such as: false authority, red herring, and stirring symbols.
At no point throughout his testimony does Colbert give Congress or the audience at home any reason why they should listen, nor believe in any of the information he is presenting. He introduces himself and then proceeds to make fun of his own credibility by saying, “Congresswoman Lofgren asked me to share my vast experience of spending one day as a migrant farmworker” (C-SPAN, 2010). His lack of ethos is almost embarrassing considering his only credibility is one day of experiencing immigrant work. Throughout his presentation he also lacks good vocabulary, definitions, examples and technical terms to back up his ethos. With his lack of ethos also comes lack of logos, which causes his argument to be even more unsuccessful. When presenting statistics concerning farming, he gives no reference to where these facts are coming from or how they came about. He states, “The invisible hand of the market has already moved 84,000 acres of production and over 22,000 farm jobs to Mexico and shut down over a million acres of US farm land due to lack of available labor” (C-SPAN, 2010). Although this statistic is very relevant to the topic, the audience has to question where he got this reference from and the credibility behind it.
In addition to the lack of ethos and logos, Colbert’s argument also included fallacies, which causes weakness in his pathos. While these fallacies add humor to his argument, they also discredit it considerably in the eyes of Congress. At the beginning of his argument he makes an appeal to false authority by stating, “I am happy to use my celebrity to draw attention to this important and complicated issue. I certainly hope my star power can bump this hearing all the way up to C span one” (C-SPAN, 2010). Colbert may make his television audience laugh, but he also shows that he lacks the adequate credentials to appropriately convince both audiences of his claims. Another fallacy present is red herring or smoke screen, which means completely different topics are introduced, in the hopes of diverting the attention from the present issue. Throughout his argument, Colbert frequently brings up topics that are not connected to migrant farm work. He appeals to pathos by using these fallacies to make his viewers laugh and distract them from the subject at hand. The use of red herring proves his argument weak because he lacks the logos and ethos to properly convince Congress, so he instead appeals to the television audience by using comical fallacies. Colbert also uses stirring symbols to try to convince the audience of his claims, such as the idea that since we are in America, tomatoes should be picked by an American, rather than a Mexican (C-SPAN, 2010). The symbols he uses are meant to have strong associations or connotations that stir emotions for both Congress and the viewer’s at home. Colbert also uses many patriotic based symbols to aid his argument. He states, “My great grandfather did not travel 4,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to see this country overrun by immigrants” (C-SPAN, 2010). The United States of America is a very patriotic country and we are passionate about our traditions and culture. When he suggests that foreign people are overrunning America, he is distracting his audiences’ by using connotations that stir patriotic related emotions.
Although Colbert does not have the ethos or logos to completely back up his credibility, he strengthened his ethos after telling his audiences’ that he gained real experience working as an immigrant laborer. He was one of only 16 Americans to participate in the “Take Our Jobs” campaign, headed by the United Farm Workers. He worked one day on a New York vegetable farm in August, which enabled him to get first hand experience on immigrant work, which included picking fruits and vegetables. “This brief experience gave me some small understanding of why so few Americans are clamoring to begin an exciting career as a seasonal migrant field worker” (C-SPAN, 2010). His humor is evident in this statement but it also shows how dreadful the working conditions are. This is an appeal to pathos because it shows the audiences that he understands why Americans view farm labor as an unfit job and why the government needs to make a change in working conditions and pay. His participation in the “Take Our Jobs” campaign gave his testimony a small measure of ethos and logos because of the knowledge that he gained. Colbert also uses some statistics and facts throughout his testimony that strengthen his logos, such as numbers on how many jobs have been moved to Mexico rather than staying in the United States (C-SPAN, 2010). Although Colbert’s credibility may be low in immigration affairs, he is well known for being a comedian. He has his own Comedy Central show called “The Colbert Report” and is known by many for his sarcastic and humorous jokes on politics. Although he may not back up his ethos in terms of immigration, he does have valid credibility as a comedian, which strengthens his pathos. He uses humor as a way to grab the television viewer’s attention so that they are made aware of the problems America’s agricultural system faces; yet he is unable to attract the attention of Congress, because his claims lack any seriousness and his jokes are aimed specifically for the television viewers’ enjoyment.
There are two audiences Colbert appeals to in his testimony. He directly speaks to Congress and indirectly speaks to the television audience. Congress consists of men and women who are highly educated adults with vast political experience and government related backgrounds. Together they make up the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Citizenship and Border Security. Their lives are fully committed to fixing immigrant problems that arise in the United States. This committee would usually present itself as a captive audience in search of a solution to improve working conditions on farms; yet, when you take a closer look, you can tell that Colbert’s opinions are not highly thought of in their eyes. While watching the video of him giving his testimony, Congress looks visibly uninterested and distracted. Colbert’s humorous comments did not appear to appeal to Congress, but only to his audience at home. His celebrity status may have brought this issue to his viewers’ attention, but because of the lack of credible information, neither Congress nor the audience at home gain any real knowledge concerning a solution to immigration labor.
In conclusion, Colbert’s lack of logos, ethos, pathos and the inclusion of fallacies makes his overall argument weak. His claims should be focused on informing both audiences, but instead they aim only to make his television viewers laugh. Throughout his argument he pokes fun at every topic that presents itself. When he would include a serious statement regarding immigrant labor, it was then overlooked because it was immediately followed by a jest against it. This flow of presenting information and then making a joke made his argument weak, especially in Congress’s eyes, because it did not show any seriousness towards the subject. The small amount of information he presented regarding the topic gives Colbert little authority on making any claims on solving the immigration problem. Colbert’s argument is weak because he does not convince Congress of his claims, and does not give television viewers enough credible information for them to make an educated conclusion on what should be done about immigrant labor in the United States. Colbert’s argument would have been stronger for both audiences if he had not included fallacies and if he had incorporated more facts and statistics to strengthen his logos.
C-SPAN. (2010, September 24). C-SPAN: Colbert Report opening statement [Video]. Retrieved September 22, 2014 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1T75jBYeCs
Note: The specific format for the Annotated Bibliography may differ by section. The example below illustrates one format, but be certain to follow the specific guidelines for your section.
Bartlett, A. V., Englender, S. J., Jarvis, B. A., Ludwig, L., Carlson, J. F., & Topping, J. P. (1991). Controlled trial of giardia lamblia: Control strategies in day care centers. American Journal of Public Health, 81(6), 1001-1006.
This source is a scholarly journal article. I found this source by typing “diseases and daycare” into SuperSearch. The authors are medical doctors and researchers. The conclusion the authors make is that cases of giardia lamblia can be controlled with precautions in the daycare setting. They come to this conclusion by conducting an experiment in which daycares that had cases of giardia lamblia were engaged in different stages of intervention and after the interventions, significant reductions in the presence of giardia lamblia occurred. This source is relevant to my research question, because the cases of giardia lamblia occurred more in daycares amongst the children still in diapers, which supports my claim that children should remain at home until they are out of diapers.
Bowlby, R. (2007). Babies and toddlers in non-parental daycare can avoid stress anxiety if they develop a lasting secondary attachment bond with one carer who is consistently accessible to them. Attachment and Human Development, 9(4), 307-319. doi:10.1080/14616730701711516
This source is a scholarly journal article. I found this source by using SuperSearch and typed in the words “infants and daycare”. The author is the president of the Center for Child Mental Health in the UK. The conclusion that the author makes is that serious psychological problems, that could influence a child’s future, occur when placed in a daycare setting that does not provide a sufficient secondary attachment bond. The author reached this conclusion by analyzing the findings, research, and data of other scholarly sources. This source helps to answer my research question because it explains why daycares are not able to provide proper care because the teachers are not able to form sufficient secondary attachment bonds with the children, which supports my claim that children still in diaper age should be in at-home care.
Farran, D. C. & Ramey, C. T. (1977). Infant day care and attachment behaviors toward mothers and teachers. Child Development, 48, 1112-1116.
This source is a scholarly journal article. I found this source by using SuperSearch and typed in the words “daycare and infants”. Both the authors are professors at universities and are researchers. The conclusion that the authors make is that the necessary attachment bond between mother and child is severed when the child is placed in daycare because the child starts to develop a bond with the teacher. They reached this conclusion by conducting an experiment to test the child’s attachment behavior towards the mother and schoolteacher when the child is put in a mildly difficult situation, showing that the child seeks to be near the mother in times of stress. However, when children are at daycare and in stressful situations while seeking their mothers, they are comforted by teachers, therefore the mother-child attachment bond is affected. This source will help me answer my research question because it provides evidence as to why children need to be cared for by their mothers at a young age.
Hedin, K., Andre, M., Hakansson, A., Molstad, S., Rodhe, N., & Petersson, C. (2007). Physician consultation and antibiotic prescription in Swedish infants: Population-based comparison of group daycare and home care. Acta Paediatrica, 96, 1059-1063. doi: 10.111/j.1651-2227.2007.00323.x
This source is a scholarly journal article. I found this source by using SuperSearch and typed in the key words “infections, infants, and daycare”. The authors’ occupations are scientists. The conclusion that the authors make is that daycare infants have more infectious episodes than home care infants and attend physicians more frequently. The authors reached this conclusion by conducting a study of 848 infants where 561 were in daycare and 278 were cared for at home. Out of this study, the children that were in daycare were brought to a doctors’ office more frequently than the children at home. This source helps me to answer my research question because it provides factual evidence that daycare children attend doctors more than home care children due to illness, which supports my claim that children should not enter into daycare until they are out of diapers because infants are more susceptible to contracting illnesses.
Hildebrand, J. (2007, February 16). Children or your job: Daycare costs to force parents out of work. The Daily Telegraph, 9.
This source is a newspaper article. I found this source by using SuperSearch by typing in the words “daycare, parents, and jobs”. The author is a writer for the newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. The conclusion that the author makes is that childcare in daycare settings is now much more costly and parents are not able to afford to put their children in daycare. The author reached this conclusion by using a study done by Australia-first and used the childcare affordability index, which was created by the economist Saul Eslake, which shows that daycare costs have increased 4 times the rate of the parents’ income. This source is a credible source because it was published in a trusted newspaper and provides research conducted by credible sources. This source helps to answer my research question because the counterargument to my speech is that parents cannot afford to stop going to work and therefore must put their children in daycare. However, this source shows that the cost of sending a child to daycare is actually more expensive then it used to be, and therefore it would be less expensive for the parent to stay at home with the child.
Kaneshiro, N. K. (2012, November 12). Daycare health risks. Retrieved November 4, 2013 from Medline Plus: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001974.htm
This source is a website. I found this source using the search engine Google and typed in the keywords “daycares and infants”. The author is a MD, MHA, and a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics. The conclusion that the source makes is that children in daycare settings are more likely to catch infections than children who are cared for at home. This conclusion was reached by using the research and conclusions of the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission. This source is credible because the website is funded and supported by a government foundation, the research was conducted by a credible commission, and the author himself is credible because his occupation is in the medical field. This source helps to answer my research question because it provides many infections and illnesses that are commonly contracted at daycare centers, further supporting my claim that young children in the diaper age should be kept at home.
Sun, Y., & Sundell, J. (2011). Early daycare attendance increases the risk for respiratory infections and asthma of children. Journal of Asthma, 48, 790-796. doi:10.3109/02770903.2011.604884
This source is a scholarly journal article. I found this source by using SuperSearch by typing in “infants, infections, and daycare”. Author Yuexia Sun is a PH.D and author Jan Sundell is a medical doctor. The conclusion the authors make is that children ages 2 and younger that attend daycare show an increase presence of respiratory illnesses. The authors reached this conclusion by conducting a research study asking parents a series of questions including how often their child is ill, and what type of care they receive. The study was analyzed using a chi-squared test which showed attending daycare was more strongly associated with health problems than family care was. This source helps to answer my research question because it has factual evidence that children attending daycare before age 2 were considerably associated with respiratory illnesses, which supports my claim that children still in the diaper age should be cared for at home.
Wilkey, R. (2013, November 5). Child care for one infant costs more than food for a family of four: Report. The Huffingtion Post, Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/05/child-care-costs_n_4215659.html
This source is a newspaper article. I came across this article after Professor Small emailed me the link to help me with my persuasive speech. The author is a writer for the Huffingtion Post. The conclusion that the author makes is that the average cost of daycare is now increasing and it costs more to send your child to daycare than it does to feed a family. This conclusion was reached by presenting a report called “ parents and the high cost of child care” by the child care aware of America. The study concluded that that the average cost of daycare had increased and the average income had not. This source is credible because it is published by a trusted newspaper and contains data provided by a credible foundation. This source helps answer my research question because the counterargument to my question is that parents cannot afford to stay home with their children and stay out of work. However, this article shows that in fact daycare is more expensive than staying home with the child and not working. The source helps to support my claim because it responds the counterargument that the audience will have and gives evidence to why it is not a valid argument.