The goals of persuasion

Pragmatics and Cognition 13 (2):297-336 (2005)
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Abstract

This paper presents a model of persuasion in terms of goals and beliefs. Among the various ways to influence people, that is, to raise or lower the likelihood for them to pursue some goal, ranging from threat to suggestion, persuasion is viewed as a case of communicative non-coercive goal hooking. A persuader leads a persuadee to pursue some goal out of a free choice, i.e., by convincing him/her that the proposed goal is useful for some other goal that the persuadee already has. It is argued that the Aristotelian persuasive strategies of logos, ethos and pathos (rational argumentation, the speaker¿s credibility and reliability, and the appeal to emotion) are always present in every persuasive discourse, and that they are exploited to raise the value of the goal proposed and to strengthen the believability of the link between it and the persuadee¿s previous goals. The paper proposes an analysis of discourse in terms of a hierarchy of goals as a tool to single out these strategies within the discourse structure. By applying this model to different kinds of persuasive messages (political discourse, advertising, dialogues in the health domain), it shows how, in the fragments presented, this kind of analysis allows to clarify the relationships between the persuader¿s and the persuadee¿s goals and to elucidate how much and how directly the persuader appeals to logos, ethos and pathos in his/her discourse

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