Reading Response Chapter 1/pgs. 1-19

Chapter one is about the evaluation of persuasive acts. As the author explains, this means being able to recognize and examine different tactics that people use when convincing others whether or not to believe an argument.

One section of the reading that I thought was especially interesting was the inductive reasoning section. Pullman describes inductive reasoning as a form of logical explanation. He explains that often times just one vivid example can influence an argument. This reminded me of the “one bad experience” idea. Pullman offers the examples of a dog attack and restaurant food poisoning to further explain and he recognizes how powerful these examples can be. I found his explanation to be particularly moving because I recognize this reasoning frequently in my life. In my family, we call it a bad “memory stick.” While we can recognize that it is irrational, it does not change our minds. Even if other people continue to eat at “restaurant A” and walk away healthy, my sister will not because of the one time she did not walk away healthy. Or maybe someone had a bad fall while at a hiking trail and he or she is now afraid to go back to that trail because of the bad experience. Pullman himself calls it a once-bitten error. In reality, it could simply be considered a traumatic, or at least relatively upsetting experience, that made someone swear off of something forever. These experiences follow the idea of inductive reasoning, where one event leads to a conclusion, but overall, inductive reasoning does not provide enough evidence to support an argument.

This illogical reasoning can easily be connected back to the psychological aspect of persuasion. Many times people cannot disconnect their own fears or beliefs to truly examine something rationally and this is what leads to inductive reasoning or, additionally, what the chapter covers as fallacies. One fallacy listed was wishful thinking. While wishful thinking may seem like a good thing in some cases, Pullman points out that it can be an error in developing a persuasive argument. Fear, another fallacy the chapter highlights, has times when it is useful but also times when it is wrongfully used to persuade someone. Both fallacy examples are deeply connected to psychology because they are strong emotions, hope and fear, that are rooted within us. This suggests that the psychology of emotions and traumatic events is linked to persuasion as whole because we are unable to separate the two. 

Furthermore, the chapter reveals that one has to recognize these psychological influences, or “logic” and fallacies, in order to delve deeper into a persuasive argument. It is easy to believe a convincing argument, but it is harder to analyze and question the argument in a way you would have never thought to before.

8 Replies to “Reading Response Chapter 1/pgs. 1-19”

  1. After today’s discussion in class, I thought your post on inductive reasoning was particularly interesting. In a sense, it is logical to not want to do something after having a bad experience – that event leads to, or can lead to, a certain result. One may not want to own a dog because he or she was bitten by one in the past. However, if it came down to arguing this logic, it may not present a strong enough case to really swear something off forever. You can’t conclude that every dog is vicious and will bite. If that were the case, they wouldn’t be household pets. When making a case for argument, one may find the root of the issue in not logic at all, but rather one of the fallacies you mentioned such as fear.

    I thought it was interesting when you mentioned people’s difficulties to “disconnect their own fears or beliefs to truly examine something rationally.” We talked about logic and its relativity in class, which made me wonder if logic could just be considered a way to justify a feeling, emotion or belief – at least on an individual level. Maybe “logic” is a personal persuasion, or even an instinctual reaction, to avoiding things that we perceive as potentially harmful. Maybe it’s a simplified way of coping with the many aspects of everyday life because we don’t always have the time to think critically and analyze every situation we’re presented. I agree with your post’s conclusion about needing to be able to “recognize psychological influences in order to delve deeper into a persuasive argument.” It’s almost like forcing yourself to ignore “logic” and the fallacies which may motivate it to find the true strengths and weaknesses in an argument.

    1. I agree with your theory on how logic may be a personal persuasion to avoid things that are harmful. In general, I think on a daily basis we persuade others, but for the most part, I think we persuade ourselves. Things as simple as whether or not to take the car or Marta to school or eating a cookie over an apple could be considered internal persuasion. I think persuasion is also easily associated with justifying things to ourselves too.
      Your analysis on why we resort to logic was also really insightful. Maybe there is just not enough time in the day to think critically about everything, and maybe logic( or emotions, etc.) are the shortcuts to make the best decisions.

  2. Yes! (love the scare quotes around ‘logic’!) So… does the Pullman passage we read, and the discussion developing here rest on an assumption that logic is more valuable—more “right,” more desirable, “better”—than emotion? And what do you think about that?

    1. I think in society we value logic more just because we believe it is “better” than emotion. More importantly, I think the only reason we believe logic is better is because of the way we define it. Looking at the OED’s definition of logic, the first definition listed defines logic as a “branch of philosophy that treats of the forms of thinking in general, and more especially of inference and of scientific method” (OED Def. 1a) Society tends to place science over free-thinking and, in this sense, logic is the science while emotions are the free-thinking. Logic is viewed as more “set-in-stone” and therefore “true.” Emotions especially are rarely trusted because they vary so much from person to person and day-to-day. Additionally, there are times when people do not take others’ emotions seriously, especially in the cases of mental health. In other words, emotions are not as respected. But after reading the persuasion chapter and discussing in class, logic clearly goes deeper than just how society defines it. We may continue to put it ahead of emotions but, in the end, I think the two are more connected than we give them credit for and I personally do not believe one is better than the other.

  3. I absolutely agree with Ellie’s assessment of emotions and inductive reasoning being interrelated as well as emotional trauma contributing to the core premises of many arguments. I’ll have to slightly disagree with Emily’s proposition that having a bad experience is logical primarily because formulating a opinion based on any experience is rooted in emotion; good or bad. Pullman proposes that logic “only works in situations where all of the relevant words have singular, unambiguous, and shared meanings, where experiences and perspectives and emotions and characters are irrelevant”, and my interpretation of that quote is that logic is based in consistency. What is proven to be “true” as logic theoretically is getting the same result consistently. Therefore, basing a belief off an experience wouldn’t be logical although understandable.

    A question that can be posed is although a logical explanation or theory is proven to be “true” does that automatically make it “right”, and should that be a determining factor? It can be suggested that it varies depending on the circumstance. However, the notion of right and wrong brings into play “morality” and “ethics”, as discussed in class, which ultimately are based on societal rules and standards. Retrospectively, the societal norms that we encompass daily are based off emotions. When a dog is abandoned and left to die, we’re told to feel hurt and discomfort. When a young child does something sweet, we’re told to feel hopeful. When society portrays certain images and people as terrifying , we’re told to feel threatened and these “psychology of emotions”, as Ellie refers to, along with logical reasoning and exposition (expressed in Pullman’s “Notes for Students) all create the complex nature that is persuasion.

    1. I thought it was revealing how you related everything back to the nature of persuasion in the end of your comment and made psychology, logic, and exposition the components that contribute to it. It really related back to the overall theme of the class and the discussion we had in the first few days of what “persuasion” can be defined as. It is not just one thing, it is all these ideas added together. Do you think that one component, like logic, can influence a persuasive act more so than any of the other components depending on the argument? I wonder if this would be the case, especially in the “pressed-time” moments we all discussed before and that Emily especially touched on in her comment. It would be be interesting to see how it varied from person to person. Personally, I think most of the time I let my emotions influence my decisions more so than any other component.

  4. I wanted to take the time to agree with this conversation. Because of the “bad experience” fallacy in persuasion, you can find that many people are put off certain experiences, people, or ideas due to only one experience that shifted the person’s perspective in that instance. This is very important because using the appeal to emotion can go both ways. With this rhetoric, you can have people play on a groups fears when they are trying to persuade them into certain actions. You see this a lot in politics and in other places.

    Many people who have experienced hunger or the death of a loved one or some type of illness will probably be more inclined to vote for a candidate who makes it a point to talk about eradicating hunger, or certain types of health cares benefits packages. I believe this can go the other way. If the group being persuaded HAVEN’T, had such an experience, they will probably be less inclined to put their emotions in it and the speaker will have a harder time trying to persuade them.

  5. Interesting conversation, folks! Kudos. (And… What is it with “agreeing” and “disagreeing”? Those terms make me itchy. Like… fire ant crawled up my sleeve or something. I wonder what function those terms have in this conversation and their role in persuasion. Persuasion is happening here, right?

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