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Argument Quality for Psychologists

Paper presented at Argumentation mini-conference, Maryland, 2010.

Yoav Magid

on 14 October 2011

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Transcript of Argument Quality for Psychologists

Argument Quality for Psychologists Yoav Magid
Comm 604
3 May 2010 Operationalization Along three major lines

Pretested effectiveness (e.g., Petty & Cacioppo, 1986)
Argument Ratings (e.g., Anderson & Yzer, 2008)
Intuition (e.g., Prieser & Petty, 2003; Lee, 2008)

All three of these have serious disadvantages. Pretested effectiveness Method
Present participants with arguments
Instruct to think about them
Perform thought-listing task

Argument Quality
High: arguments that elicited mostly favorable thoughts
Low: arguments that elicited mostly unfavorable touhgts BUT "We have postponed the question of what specific qualities make arguments persuasive by defining argument quality in an empirical manner” (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986, p.32) Postponed till when? No answer yet in 2010. Important Because Argument Quality is central to

the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
the Heuristic Systematic Model (HSM)
the Unimodel
Inoculation Theory

and other cognitive processing theories. Pretested effectiveness Weakness

This method assumes, rather than shows, that high argument quality is responsible for persuasiveness under high elaboration (O’Keefe & Jackson, 1995, O’Keefe, 2002, 2005).

Argument quality, which is postulated to affect persuasive outcome, is thus defined by its persuasive outcome, which, in effect, renders it circular reasoning Conclusion Disparity between Communication and Psychology A view from the Unimodel Most relativistic of all alternatives
"Malleable and changeable" (Kruglanski, 2010)
Argument Quality defined in terms of (personal) relevance
A good argument is one that persuades the audience Pragma-dialectics O'Keefe & Jackson (1995; O'Keefe, 2002, 2005)
Independent normative account of argument quality
Due to space constraints, no elaboration of this plan

O'Keefe (1997a, 1997b, 1998)
Pragma-dialectics is the way to go:

Theory of conduct (argument 2), not as interesting for psychologists Intuition Weaknesses
Should be fairly obvious. Informal Logic My favorite. I love it when things make sense. Argument Ratings Weakness

Assumes that participants’ perceptions of argument quality actually accurately reflect argument quality. This is dubious, because it implies participants cannot “be fooled by fallacious reasoning,” and that they can spot “weaknesses in supporting evidence [and] inconsistencies in arguments.” (O’Keefe & Jackson, 1995, p. 90) Intuition Argument Quality
Unspecified Specificity and tangibility (Hunt, Smith & Kernan, 1985) Method

Whatever the researcher believes to be strong and weak arguments on an unspecified basis: Varying strength of statistics (Jepson & Chaiken, 1990) Completely different products! (Prieser & Petty, 2003) Experiment Method
60 undergraduates for course credit
Read short story about Good Samaritan Policy at UMD
Rated 23 arguments along four lines:

Significant difference between arguments (F = 52.5, p < .001)
Surprising difference between arguments
Significant difference between people (F = 5.47, p < .001) Logical
Easy to defend Compelling
Smart Alternatives? Standpoint Explicitness
Justification Explicitness Relevance
Counterarguments In a specific instance
With specific motivation
With specific ability Thus, source credibility can be a good argument
A sexy woman on the hood of a car can be a good argument Argument Ratings Method
Pilot participants rate arguments on scales Argument Quality
High: arguments that score highly on the scales
Low: arguments that score lowly on the scales Persuasiveness (Petty, Cacioppo & Harkins, 1981) Presence of DWC relationship
Acceptability of propositions
Presence of fallacies Weaknesses Aristotle's syllogism
Toulmin's Data Warrant Claim
Quality would depend on: Participants don't know logic and fallacies
Acceptability of propositions just as subjective Weakness
Doesn't say anything about the argument itself
Subjective vs. potential relevance. Message variables Message variables What operationalization works best for
ELM / HSM / Inoculation Theory
Argumentation Theory in general Believability, comprehensibility, complexity, familiarity (Petty & Cacioppo, 1986) Compellingness, logic, defendability (Anderson & Yzer, 2008) But... "judge each field of substantial arguments by its own relevant standards" (2003, p. 216)
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