Analyzing Persuasive Arguments Essay

1573 words - 7 pages

Persuasion is everywhere. Imagine taking a stroll down the street. Billboards right and left - on the side of the bus, inside the subway, and even public washrooms. What is the deal? Advertisers want us to spend money on their products; political candidates want us to agree that their view point is the best for our nation; broadcasters want us to spend our precious time watching their shows or listening to their radio channel; and even post-secondary institutions advertise the myriad of opportunities we can get after graduating from their school. Many of these persuasions are used in ways that are deliberately misleading to sell you something. With the countless of things going on, how would ...view middle of the document...

Most of us may be familiar with the “incredible” towel that has a reputation to work like a sponge and claims to clean any kind of mess better than the regular sponge or paper towel. When evaluating products or anything that seems “too good to be true,” consider whether the persuader has any empirical data to back up the claim. One approach is to weigh all the evidence given, and then question the credibility of the information. That is, whether the evidence weighs against the conclusion being favoured. Ask questions such as whether there are any scientific, historical or statistical data. According to Raymond Nickerson, a psychologist and author, weighing evidence is a crucial reasoning skill when it comes to analyzing an argument. He argues that a critical thinker would not only objectively evaluate the issue, but also actively seek evidence that counteracts a claim before accepting it as true (Nickerson, 1998). In addition, psychologist Deanna Kuhn did a study on young children that demonstrated that they had difficulty distinguishing whether something was true because of an intuitive sense or a result of empirical evidence (Kuhn, 1999). In the experiment, when the children were showed a series of pictures and then asked a series of questions related to the pictures. Most of them gave an answer that was correct but they justified their answer with intuitive theories rather than evidence that was clearly showed in the pictures. This study shows that children are not able to develop such reasoning skill without first being taught.
Bias and Slanted Writing
In the age of information explosion, how can you confirm what you see or hear is accurate? It can be difficult to find unbiased and objective information in a society where it is common to see even reputable writers report on inflammatory speculation and rumours and make it appear as if the news were true. Weak arguments tend to persuade people as easily as strong arguments because of the way it is conveyed. This is considered biased or slanted writing. It is when the conveyer expresses in favour or prejudice against something and slanted writing is when the writer carefully chooses their facts, words and tone to achieve a particular response or attitude from the reader. This bias and slanted material can be reduced by considering the missing components of the argument. Consider whether there were any facts that the writer deliberately omitted and ask yourself whether your impression would be the same if some words were not used. One method is to view the argument from the perspective of someone who is against the message. This way you would be able to list counterarguments and easily discover what additional information is missing.
Identifying Fallacies
Does it surprise you when you see the type of tactics that politicians utilize in order to get their message across? In most cases, they would vehemently use “baloney” reasoning just to get majority support. The most frightening...

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