Arguing about desirable consequences: What constitutes a convincing argument?

Thinking and Reasoning 18 (3):394 - 416 (2012)
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Argument quality has consistently been shown to have strong and lasting persuasive effects. The question is what criteria people use to distinguish strong from weak arguments and how these criteria relate to the ones proposed in normative argumentation theory. In an experiment 235 participants without training in argumentation theory rated the acceptance of 30 claims about the desirability of a consequence that were supported by either an argument from analogy, from authority, or from consequences. The supporting arguments were systematically manipulated to violate argument type specific criteria. Participants proved sensitive to the violation of most, but not all, argument type specific criteria. From a normative perspective these findings suggest that people act in a fairly adequate way. These findings also enable a more precise description of what people may do when critically appraising arguments, which has important implications for the use of argument quality as a methodological tool in persuasion research



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