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Chapter Seven - Language and Persuasion.docx

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PSYC 3170
Masood Zangeneh

Chapter Seven: Language and Persuasion We associate meanings with words; words have the power to influence us. Words are the primary means of persuasion. They not only affect our perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and emotions but they also create reality. Symbols, Meaning and Persuasion: The Power of Babble  What is a symbol? A very basic definition is that a symbol is something that represents something else.  Names are a good example. Your names represents who you are, just as the word „pig‟ represents an animal with a with a curly tail and slimy snout  One important characteristic of symbols is that they are arbitrary – symbols have no necessary connection to what they represent  Because they are arbitrarily connected to what they represent, a second characteristic of symbols is that they are conventionalized, which means that if we want to use a symbol to communicate to someone else, we have to agree on the symbol‟s meaning.  Without some measure of agreement on the meanings of words, communication and persuasion would be difficult, if not impossible. Connotative and Denotative Meaning: That‟s not how I See It  There are at least two meanings for every word  First, the denotative meaning, is a word‟s direct, explicit dictionary definition  Second, connotative meaning, refers to the thoughts and emotions associated with a word; which might vary from person to person  Although all of us might agree on the denotative meaning of the word, our attitudes associated with the word may be quite different  It is important to recognize that the meanings of words are subjective Ultimate Terms: Speak of the Devil  Although connotative meanings tend to be more subjective than denotative meanings, sometimes the connotations associated with certain words are shared by large groups of people (i.e., societies and cultures). As a result, such words can be powerfully persuasive tools for motivating people  Richard Weaver labeled ultimate terms, which are words or phrases that are highly revered, widely accepted, and carry special power in a culture  According to Weaver, there are three types of ultimate terms:  God terms carry the greatest blessing in a culture and demand sacrifice or obedience; examples include “fact” or “progress”; modern-day god terms include “family values”, “critical thinking”, and “balanced budget”  Devil terms are perceived by a culture as associated with the absolutely abhorrent and disgusting, such as “Nazi”, “Communism”, “dead-beat dad”, and “racist”  Charismatic terms are associated with something observable and much like a charismatic person, have a power that in some way is mysteriously given  The connotations associated with such terms may change over time  Politicians and businesspeople choose their words very carefully.  “Freedom” and “democracy” are charismatic terms in our culture  Words, when widely accepted as representing what is good or evil in a culture, have incredible persuasive potential Familiar Phrases and Persuasion: Have I Heard You Somewhere Before?  Daniel Howard argued that certain phrases (e.g. “Rome wasn‟t built in a day”, “Money doesn‟t grow on trees”) are familiar, widely accepted in a culture, and persuasive  Which act as peripheral cures to persuasion  Using the elaboration likelihood model as a theoretical base, Howard suspected that familiar phrases would be persuasive only when people weren‟t able or motivated to scrutinize a message; they would act as peripheral cues to persuasion The Power of Labeling  The name you use affects the way people respond to you  A study showed that people with the names John, Michael, Karen, and Wendy (more common names) were rated more likeable than people named Percival, Elmer, Isadore, and Alfreda  Because of our need for self-enhancement (aka implicit egotism), we tend to favour things that we associate with ourselves  The labels we use to describe people or things reflect our attitudes about them and affect others‟ reactions to the people and things labeled  According to what is commonly known as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the language we use determines the way we understand the world  Example: When people use racist language/terms – Negro, Coloured, Black – to describe someone of different skin colour – it portrays them in a different light Euphemisms and Doublespeak: Making the Worse Appear the Better and Vice Versa th  In the 5 century BC, a group of teachers known as Sophists created private schools in Greece, and students were charged fees to be taught; soon after, it was such a profitable occupation that it attracted a number of charlatans, who gave the Sophists a bad reputation (today, “sophistry” connotes deceitful or fallacious reasoning)  The practice of using words to make the worse appear the better (and vice versa) is still used today  Modern Sophists commonly use doublespeak (ambiguous or evasive language) and euphemisms (inoffensive terms substituted for offensive ones) to create messages with less sting  For example, used cars are “pre-owned automobiles”, a garbage collector is called a “sanitation engineer”, and a prostitute is rather “a person who sells sex persistently”  Two possible motives for using euphemisms: because such words are less threatening and more respectful, therefore saving the “face” of the audience members, and in order to be regarded as tasteful and sensitive, therefore saving their own “face” Language Intensity, Vividness, and Offensiveness ##@**!!!!##: Profanity and Persuasion  Even though profanity, like any symbol, is arbitrary, it clearly plays a role in the process of persuasion, mostly because such strong connotations are associated with swearing  Study conducted by Baudhuin resulted in him categorizing profanity i
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