How effective is emotion in an argument? Know Answer
written by Lamaa Student

There seems to be an unspoken rule or stigma surrounding the use of emotion in arguments or debates. The reason for this stems from the display of vulnerability and the idea that strong emotions have the ability to cloud or override one's logical reasoning and thought. This notion, however, does have some truth to it. Due to a neural connection between the amygdala (grey matter in the limbic system associated with emotions) and the prefrontal cortex (often associated with rational thought and decision making), the influence of either processes of logical thought and emotional attachment can be bidirectional. While this may prove vulnerability in your own arguments, it also presents a possible vulnerability in the argument of your 'opponent'.


As humans, we all contain biases that are, more often than not, derived from emotional attachment. The personal knowledge that each of us pertain may have some element of emotional attachment to that field of knowledge that cannot be convinced of otherwise through scientific evidence. For example, before gay marriage was legalised in the United States, the very concept was considered taboo and looked down upon. So, how were these opinions changed? Appeal to emotion. I believe appealing to the emotions of someone is most indicative of their likelihood of being convinced. The use of scientific and perhaps religious evidence exists simply to give validation to these emotionally driven claims.


If a person has developed an emotional attachment to a knowledge claim (anger towards bisexuals for example) it can be difficult to change their mind. The first attempt at doing so should be redirecting their emotional attachment (converting the anger into sympathy and human empathy). This is often achieved through emotionally stimulating situations and encouragement of the innate behaviour of human empathy. As empathy is evident in all healthy individuals, people may rid themselves of the guilt of discriminating against others, for example, by dehumanising victims and portraying them as being less so as to feel better about their actions. This must be redirected so that anger (for example) is switched to sympathy. This is by far the hardest part (and the reason why so many people may remain unconvinced to new knowledge), however, after it is overcome, the other factors fall easier.


I believe that evidence collected from other fields of knowledge (science and religion for example) act as supplementaries to the emotional appeal. They serve to validate and give reason and understanding for this change in emotional attachment. For example, advances in scientific research may prove that the lgbt community is as much human as anyone else and without mental deficits. This information can often be viewed as the turning point in an argument when, in reality, they are simply supplementary. 

There is, however, a distinction. Knowledge claims presented within the fields of natural science should be devoid of any emotional stimuli as the field is dangerous once tampered with emotion (although this could be an interesting topic of discussion for another post). When presenting arguments within this field, only evidence is effective in use. It is simply the fields of knowledge that rely on opinions and theories wherein emotional appeal can be deemed effective (ethics, prejudice & bias).

So, how effective is emotion in an argument? So long as it's an ethics/religious/opinion driven debate, I would say highly effective if used correctly.







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