The Persuasive Communication and Commentary Abstract

This paper presents an analysis of a persuasive presentation about the treatment of children offenders by the justice system. The persuasive presentation seeks to change the audience`s mind about imprisoning child offenders by making it clear that incarcerating the children does not lead to improved behavior. Several aspects that assist the authors to persuade the audience are analyzed and these include visual semiotics, auditory semiotics, ethos, social constructivist theory, pathos, alliteration, the cognitive approach to persuasion, language use, ELM and contrast among others. These were used strategically because they persuade the audience to change perceptions.
The Persuasive Communication and Commentary
Persuasion has evolved into an art and as a result, there are several strategies that writers use to ensure that their target audiences not only see their points of view but also concur with them. The presentation developed is about the way children are treated by the justice system. The presentation makes it clear that there is extensive emphasis on imprisoning children who are offenders yet this step has detrimental effects on the children, the economy and in turn the society at large. It therefore seeks to persuade the audience that restorative justice is a far better option than imprisonment. This discussion outlines, discusses and exemplifies some of the techniques that were used to persuade the audience and they include visual semiotics, auditory semiotics, ethos, social constructivist theory, pathos, alliteration, the cognitive approach to persuasion, language use, ELM and contrast among others.
The persuasive presentation targets an elite and sophisticated audience whose opinions and dispositions may not be easy to displace. The most profound way to change behavior is through changing belief (Quine, Rutter & Arnold, 2001). It would therefore take a combination of several strategies for the presentation to have the desired effects on the audience. The packaging of information highly determines its understandability, acceptability and the level to which its calls to action are heeded to.
The first aspect that is evident in the persuasive piece is visual semiotics. The use of visual semiotics refers to the inclusion of visual aspects including signs and images to communicate to the audience. This is evident in several slides whose background images allow the audience to construct the reality of the subject under discussion. For instance, some of the slides showcase backgrounds in which children are locked up, in which they engage in delinquent behavior and some of them showcase the images of children after they have spend time in the prison system. The second strategy used is auditory semiotics. It refers to the use of sound to communicate. The presentation was accompanied by music which also aided in the creation of pathos which will be discussed later on comprehensively.
The three classical rhetorical strategies which are ethos, pathos and logos were also used in the presentation. These elements fall under the social constructivist theory that advocates for accountability in the social, political and economic realms (Gergen, 1985). The presentation begins by building the argument that though the prison system is important, it is wrong in its core essence. The use of ethos is evident in the way the presentation initiates and maintains interconnectedness between the presentation, the speakers and the audience. The presentation highlights the link between restorative justice and the council of judges whose roles include bridging the gap between roles and responsibilities, uniting shared fears and the social concern for young offenders.
Logos is also evident in the presentation. It refers to the use of reasoning to persuade the audience. This is evident in several areas of the presentation including the costs of maintaining a single youth in the prison facility, the psychological consequences of keeping the children in prison and the rates at which they reoffend once they are out of prison. It states that 73% of young people who are released from custody offend again within a year of their release. This, among several other arguments is based on logic and they lead to comprehensive understanding of the concepts under discussion. The persuasive piece also presents several cases that built on the use of reasoning. For instance, one case is that of Jason who is 15 and who claims that he got used to the prison system and he learned how to weigh drugs, package them and sell them to make profit. Persuasion is also achieved through the incorporation of words from a credible and trusted source across the world who in this case is Nelson Mandela. The expertise of the source of information determines the extent to which an argument is accepted (Petty & Cacippo, 1981). Mandela is cited to have said that “there can be no keener revelation of a society`s soul than the way in which it treats its children”.
Pathos was also used and it refers to the extent to which presenters are able to appeal to the audience`s emotions. Currently, emotions are known to have profound effects on cognition (Potter). In this case, the presentation argues out a case about children and presents images about their suffering in order to appeal to emotions. The presentation`s first slide stirs people`s feelings of empathy for children who may have committed crimes. The image reinforces the title of the audience which places emphasis on the fact that it dwells on children. There are also other areas where pathos has been used, for instance, there is an image of a boy in the cell, of a boy who is almost 5″ tall and these are images that would appeal to emotions. Furthermore, some of the arguments made and the questions used fall under pathos. The presentation is in argument form and the presented aspects may be met by criticism. The argument agrees that prisons cannot be done away with but also highlights the detriments of the system and the need for a better option.
The next aspect that is evident in the presentation is alliteration. It refers to the use of a similar sound at the beginning of words that are in close proximity. For instance, the statement “villain or victim?” serves this rhetorical purpose. Another example lies in the title which stated “the child behind the crime”. The cognitive approach to persuasion has also been used. It involves triggering thinking among members of the audience and allowing them to process information. The presentation gives the audience several chances to think about the issues outlined and proposed. The images presented, the questions asked and other information is meant to get the audience to think about the current system of managing crime among children and the consequences of the same. In relation to the cognitive approach to persuasion is cognitive dissonance. It involves the presentation of two ideas that are in conflict and this may make the audience feel uncomfortable. For instance, the audience is asked to decide whether a small child is a threat to the society or not and to understand that children offenders are children, a fact that cannot be disregarded.
Language selection is also used as a persuasion technique in the presentation. Language used is highly persuasive because it serves to manipulate the way people feel about the subject. For instance, someone who may have thought the prison system was the only option may end up changing his mind at the end of the presentation. The language appeals to the way people feel because a statement such as “total UK cost of youth imprisonment totals 4 billion pounds annually” among others would trigger people to change their minds about child imprisonment.
Tricolon building is also used to a great extent. It refers to the use of the same phrases at the beginning of statements that follow one another. For instance, the statements “people want answers people want to feel safe and people want to feel safe” depict the use of this strategy. Repeating the same words emphasizes on the gist of the statements leading to persuasion. The technique is also used in other parts of the presentation. Tricolon use also exemplifies the use of repetition to persuade the audience.
Besides the social constructivist theory, aspects of the social judgment theory were considered when putting the presentation together. A vital aspect of this theory is recognizing the anchor point. They are the main points of communication in the presentation. A statement such as “restorative justice isn`t the complete answer but it`s a proven means of helping both victims and perpetrators of crime” sums up the proposed option and its anticipated consequences and thus persuades the audience.
Contrast was used when putting together the presentation because there are several aspects that are juxtaposed for this purpose. This aspect also falls under the social constructionist theory. The strategy was used to contract the cost of imprisoning children and the cost of high quality restorative justice. There is also comparison and contrast of the extent to which offending is increased by imprisonment and reduced by restorative justice.
The inverted U hypothesis has also been used. It postulates that as arousal increases, so does performance. Some parts of the presentation seek to arouse feelings of responsibility and in turn call for action. The last three slides of the presentation invoke fear in the audience and may in turn lead to changes in people`s attitudes. People may also act in view of accountability as noted by Potter & Edwards (1993). The presenter was likeable, trustworthy and attractive and people can identify with him.
Last but not least is the use of ELM (Elaboration Likelihood model). The model states that change in attitude rests upon the probability of an “issue being elaborated upon” (Jones, et al., 2004, Kruglanski & Thomson, 1999 and Bohner, Chaiken & Hunyadi, 1994). There are several instances when this strategy is used. The audience is asked to think whether the restorative justice is an answer. The proposed view is then build upon by the explication of information that supports restorative justice and advantages of restorative justice including its defense against crime, its effectiveness and its support for humanly acts. The process of restorative justice is also highlighted. The audience is presented with systematically arranged information and more questions to think about regarding the concept of restorative justice. This is in line with the proposition for information elaboration as part of securing certainty (Barden & Petty, 2008 and Aaker & Maheswaran, 1997).
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