Wayne C. Minnick

Houghton Mifflin Company



"The critical factor, then, in determining whether the hypothesis is confirmed or infirmed appears to be hypothesis strength, e.g., the nature and kind of information that will establish the hypothesis as true or false." (40)  This is determined by: 

1. The frequency of past confirmations. (40) 

2. Cognitive support. (41) 

3. Consensual validation. (41) 

4. Motivational support. (41)


Minnick suggests a "Perceptual- Motivational Theory of Persuasion" 

1. Does the communication catch and hold the attention of the receiver? (42) 

2. Does the communlcation instate the intended hypotheses? (43) 

3. Is the central hypothesis of the communication properly confirmed? (44) 

                        --Is there "adequate consensual support" (44) 

                        --Is there "congruence with the receiver's existing cognitions" (44

                        --Is there "support of past confirmations" (45

                        --Is there "motivational support" (45) 

4. Does the communication provide means of overcoming "field barriers"? (46) 


Turning, now to each of these points:


I. Getting and holding attention (making sure your message is received) 

A.  State your propositions in an interesting way (65).  For example:

1a. Accidents are caused by carelessness. 

1b. A careless man is an accident about to happen. 


2a. Teachers do not begrudge the time they spend with their students. 

2b. "There is no featherbedding in teaching." 


3a "We also believe, or act as if we believe, that man's needs are principally material, whereas his true material needs are few and simple, and his needs for certain mental and spiritual qualities, such as love, selflessness, and knowledge of himself are great out of all proportion with these material needs." 

3b "Materialism is a crime against humanity."


4a A handkerchief is unsanitary. 

4b Don't put a cold in your pocket. 


5a Freedom must respect the rights of others. 

5b "Your liberty to swing your arms ends where my nose begins." 


II. Instating the intended hypothesis (making sure your thesis and supporting statements are correctly understood) 

Avoiding Coding-Decoding Errors (103-108) 

            --Use familiar labels.

            --Evaluate the connotative meaning of words.

            --Define crucial terms and concepts.



            --Description of purpose or function. 

            --Comparison or contrast

            --Class designation plus general principle or distinguishing characteristic. 


            --Encode for a particular audience 

            --Aim for enough redundancy and variety


III. Confirming the central hypothesis 

A. Providing cognitive support 

1.  Evidence (pp. 120-129)

a.  There are three criteria to use in discovering evidence  




"an advocate should make a conscious evaluation of the probable trustworthiness of reported evidence in terms of the known reliability of the source." (123) 


3.  Arguments (pp. 129-148) 

a.  Argument from Examples 

"The most useful and reliable way ( test a generalization is to try to discover contrary instances...and to account for them if found." (134) 

b. Argument from Analogy 

                                                --implied generalization 

                                                --multiple correspondence 

c. Argument from Sign ("There must be a horse in here somewhere!") 

d. Argument from Generalization


4.  Toulmin's Scheme of Argument (146-148) 

Toulmin conceives of argument as having at least three indispensable elements:




In addition, 

                                    --support may sometimes be provided for the warrant

                                    --reservations or qualifiers may be appended to the conclusion


B. Providing consensual support (152-177)

1. Appeal to majority opinion

2. Limitations on Majority Opinion 

                                    a. The effect of majority opinion will vary with the degree of value the individual places on group membership. 

                                    b. The effect of group opinion will vary with the immediate awareness in the audience of group loyalty. 

                                    c. The influence of group opinion appears to be strongest when the majority is large. 

                                    d. Pressures toward conformity appear linked to the individual's status within the group. 

                                    e. Resistance to social pressure is related to degree of self-confidence. 

3.  Using Group Pressures in Persuasion 

                                    a. The citing of polls, surveys, and precise measures of public opinion 

                                    b. The citing of personal observation concerning the climate of public opinion. 

                                    c. The citing of testimony of group leaders or of competent observers concerning the nature of group opinion. 

4. Ethos, Credibility, Prestige 

                                    a. The Common-Ground method ("Friends, Romans, countrymen...")

                                    b. The Yes, Yes method 

                                    c. The Yes, But method ("But Brutus is an honorable man...") 

                                    d. The Oblique or Circuitous method ("If Caesar was ambitious, he deserved to die...") 

                                    e. The Implicative method ("Have you ever consorted with known communists [or Al-Quaida]?")


C. Providing support through past confirmations (184-204)

 1.  In persuasive communication the use of descriptive or evaluative iabels in conjunction with a concept or idea is a common way of trying to color the concept with positive or negative sanctions. 

2. The fidelity and vividness of an experience are increased

                                    --when it is compared with other experiences.  

                                    --if one narrates and describes it with an abundance of concrete details

                                    --if it is narrated and described in terms familiar to the audience

                                    --if the communicator narrates and describes it in multisensory words (pitchy, snowy vs. white, leaden vs. gray)

                                    --if one reduces complex experiences to simple dimensions.


D. Providing motivational support (208-229)

1 Correlation Between Motivation and Belief 

                                    --Desire influences belief most strikingly when the means of establishing credibility are ambiguous. (222) 

--If a statement is highly important to a person, he tends to seek facts to confirm or deny it rather than let himself he swayed by desire. (223)


IV. Overcoming Obstacles

A.  Strategy (253-264) 

                        1.  Adjustments to make the message appropriate, interesting, and intelligible to the particular audience. 

          2. Adaptations involving adjustments in purpose, proof, and format. 

                        3. The order of presentation of individual arguments

                                    >law of primacy (key ideas first)

                                    > law of recency (last mentioned best remembered)

4. The relative effectiveness of climax and anticlimax orders:  The climax order might conceivably prepare an audience to accept the strong emotion of the last argument. Arguments not having pronounced emotional content may well be, under the circumstances described above, arranged in anticlimax order. 

5. One-sided or two-sided presentation: the program giving both sides of the argument was most effective with those persons initially in disagreement with the speaker, while the one-sided argument was more effective with those who initially favored the speaker's position.  The study also indicated that the two-sided presentation was more effective with better educated men, while the one-sided argument was more appealing to the more poorly educated.

B.  Analysis of the Audience (264-275) 

                        1. Who is the audience? 

                        2. How much can be known about an audience?


V.  The Ethics of Persuasion (278-287) 

A. Judging Ethics According to the End Sought by the Persuader 

B. Judging Ethics According to the Means Used 

                        1. Propaganda devices 

                                    a. The Name-CalIing Device 

                                    b. The Glittering Generalities Device 

                                    c. The Transfer Device 

                                    d. The Testimonial Device        

                                    e. The Plain-Folks Device 

                                    f. The Card-Stacking Device 

                                    g. The Band-Wagon Device

                        2. High and low motives 

                        3. Degree of rationality

C.  How Can One Be Assured That His Persuasion Is Ethical? (285-287) 

                        1. The following means of persuasion are generally agreed to be unethical: 

                                    a. Falsifying or fabricating evidence

                                    b. Distorting evidence 

                                    c. Conscious use of specious reasoning 

                                    d. Deceiving the audience about the intent of the communication 

                        2. An ethical advocate is obliged to reject propositions which, when tested by his best thinking, prove to have a low truth-probability. (286)