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Emotional Versus Logical Appeal: Reading Comprehension Review Study Guide

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Updated on Aug 24, 2011

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Emotional Versus Logical Appeal: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

When a person wants to convince you of something, he or she is probably going to pull out all the stops. Writers use every technique they can think of to win you over to their side of an issue. You've undoubtedly been in situations where someone was trying to convince you of something; you're bombarded with TV and print ads all day that try to persuade you to do something, buy something, or think a certain way. As the attempt to convince you is going on, you were probably searching the argument for reasons. Why should you agree or see this other person's point of view? To be convinced, you need a reason, and the reason has to have enough substance or clout to really convince you.

PACE YOURSELF

TRY CONVINCING FRIENDS or family of something without giving them any reasons. Are they convinced? Or, think about the last time friends or family members tried to convince you of something. What did they use as their reasons?

Imagine you have a friend who plans to try out for the track team at your school and wants you to try out, too. Let's say you're not too sure about whether you should try out, so your friend tries to convince you. What are some reasons your friend might use to persuade you? Imagine that this is your friend's list of reasons:

    Reason #1: It will be fun.
    Reason #2: They say exercise is good for you, and running track is good exercise.
    Reason #3: You're a good runner and will probably make the team.
    Reason #4: You'll get to travel to other schools, getting a chance to see other places and people you might not otherwise se
    Reason #5: If you don't try out, you'll just be lazy.

Your friend uses two different kinds of arguments, or reasons. Writers do that too. In an attempt to persuade you, a writer, or anyone else, may use an emotional appeal, a logical appeal, or a combination of both. Here's the difference between the two:

    emotional appeal = plays on your emotions or feelings
    logical appeal = states actual facts

FUEL FOR THOUGHT

AN APPEAL IS an earnest plea.

Now that you know the two types of appeals, let's go back to the argument your friend was making and talk about the reasons. Here was the first reason:

    It will be fun.

Does this seem like an emotional appeal or a logical appeal? It seems to appeal to emotion more than reasons, because your friend provides no evidence of how running track will be fun. What will make it fun? But you probably do want to have fun, so this reason appeals to your emotions.

Let's review the second reason your friend gave:

    They say that exercise is good for you, and running track is good exercise.

This reason doesn't play to your emotions. It just logically states a fact. It can be proven that exercise is good for you, and running is exercise. So, running on the track team would be good for you. Now, that's a logical appeal!

What about the fourth reason?

    You'll get to travel to other schools, getting a chance to see other places and people you might not otherwise see.

Well, because the team does travel to other schools, this is another logical reason why you should try out for the team!

What do you think about the last reason that your friend gave? Do you think it's an emotional appeal or a logical appeal?

    If you don't join, you'll just be lazy.

If you think it's an emotional appeal, you're right! Basically, your friend is calling you lazy for not going to the tryouts. It's almost a threat. Don't join and everyone will know you're lazy! This is meant to get you riled up, to incite feelings in you that will be strong enough to make you go to the tryouts!

You can see why it's important to know when someone is trying to convince you by appealing to your emotions, rather than your mind. The person who appeals to your emotions may be hoping you'll go with that emotion and throw your sense of reason out the window. But whenever you're deciding between two or more sides of an argument, it's always best to keep your sense of reason on the alert.

To review the difference between the two types of appeals, take a look at these arguments in favor of an increased amount of physical education time in schools.

    Argument #1: There should be more time set aside for physical education in schools. Exercise is important to every student's health, and we wouldn't want students to become lazy and gain weight, which would lead to other health problems. Also, children need time to relax and release stress, so that they can be happy and do better in school.
    Argument #2: There should be more time set aside for physical education in schools. Studies show that children who exercise on a regular basis are better able to maintain a healthy weight and have fewer overall health problems than children who don't get enough exercise. Also, there is data to support that regular exercise actually acts as a stress reliever, and students who exercise have been shown to be happy and achieve higher test scores.

The first thing to do when confronted with an argument is to think about the reasons given to justify a position. What reasons does the author of argument #1 give?

    Reason #1: Exercise is important to students' health.
    Reason #2: Students who don't exercise become lazy and gain weight.
    Reason #3: Students who exercise are happier and do better in school.

INSIDE TRACK

IT MIGHT HELP if you go back to the passage and highlight, underline, or circle the author's reasons or number them as you go. Don't be afraid to mark up your paper!

Are these reasons logical or do they appeal only to your emotions? On the surface, they may all seem like good reasons. We probably all want students to be healthy, motivated, and happy. We probably all want students to do better in school. But what evidence does this author give for how more exercise will help? None. Instead, the author appeals to the emotions by trying to convince you based on the fact that you care about the kids!

Reread argument #2:

    There should be more time set aside for physical education in schools. Studies show that children who exercise on a regular basis are better able to maintain a healthy weight and have fewer overall health problems than children who don't get enough exercise. Also, there is data to support that regular exercise actually acts as a stress reliever, and students who exercise have been shown to be happy and acheve higher test scores.

Do you see how it's different? The author basically gives the same reasons, but instead of appealing to your emotions, he or she appeals to your sense of logic. The author tells you there's data to support what he or she is saying. So, instead of just feeling bad for the kids, you can think logically about whether more exercise will be beneficial to them or not.

When faced with an argument in writing, follow these steps:

    Step #1: Identify the issue.
    Step #2: Identify the position the author has taken.
    Step #3: Identify the reasons the author gives as support for that position.
    Step #4: Decide if the reasons are logical or only appeal to your emotions.

An emotional appeal can add strength to a logical argument, but an argument that is only emotional is something to watch out for. Such arguments may not have any logical basis at all, and you could be sucked in by words that are only meant to make you feel a certain way, and not think. That's how people get caught up in scams! In reading and in life, you want to be able to make an informed decision when someone tries to persuade you to give money, to buy something, to volunteer to do something, or to give your vote to a particular presidential candidate!

CAUTION!

WHEN THINKING ABOUT the strength of an argument, try to be objective. If you feel a strong emotional pull toward one side of an argument, it could cloud your ability to determine whether the author is being logical or using just emotional appeal.

PACE YOURSELF

THINK OF SOMETHING you'd like to persuade someone to do or believe. Identify three reasons you'd use in your argument, and decide if they're logical or emotional appeals.

LET'S RECAP

Sometimes authors try to persuade their readers to do something or think a particular way. To do this, the authors appeal to either the readers' emotions, their sense of reason, or a little bit of each. An emotional appeal is one that relates to feelings, and a logical appeal is one that relates to the mind and reason.

Beware of arguments that are purely emotional. An author may try to persuade you by making you feel a certain way, instead of relying on your intelligence. Logical arguments are always stronger. Remember what you learned about facts and opinions? Well, facts are logical things we know are true, and when used to support an argument, facts make it stronger.

This chapter was important because when you approach writing, it's good to be armed with as much information as possible. If you can dissect an author's argument and identify when he or she is only appealing to your emotions and is not backing up a specific argument with facts, you'll be better prepared to make decisions about what you read.

Practice exercises for this study guide can be found at:

Emotional Versus Logical Appeal: Reading Comprehension Review Practice Exercises

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