Humor appeals are based on amusement and what an audience considers funny. These appeals
often are used to gain attention and to reinforce messages, and they sometimes can make a
speaker more liked by an audience. But humor is difficult to achieve because it varies so much
from one person to another, and from one culture to another. Additionally, humor does not coexist
well with the repetition of messages.
Sex appeals are based on subtle or shocking use of messages related to nudity or sexuality. In
some cultures, such appeals are considered appropriate, particularly for products associated with sexual attraction such as perfume and jewelry. In other cultures, sex appeals are considered
2. Negative Emotional Appeals
Fear appeals are based on the human tendency toward anxiety or worry. Moderation is the key
to using fear appeals effectively. Communicators have found that the best use of fear appeals is
when they are accompanied by an easy-to-achieve and practical solution to the problems that
audiences are willing to admit to. Younger people have a higher tolerance for fear appeals than
do older people, and research suggests that the effectiveness of stronger fear appeals increases
when audience members have high self-esteem and feel immune to pending doom.
Guilt appeals focus on a personal sense of shame, the antithesis of a virtue appeal. Like fear
appeals, guilt appeals can be effective in moderation and with the appropriate audience.
Hate appeals carry with them particular ethical problems. Social responsibility suggests that appeals to hatred of people are unethical and inappropriate, though admittedly sometime
effective, particularly with audiences that are poorly educated. Less ethically risky are appeals
based on the hatred of socially abhorrent ideas or actions, though abhorrence often is shaped by
political and social issues that do not span cultures well.
III. Rank’s Model of Persuasion
Professor Hugh Rank has articulated an easy-to-understand relationship between two opposing
forces in persuasive argumentation.
Intensify. One technique is to intensify or magnify the benefits of your product/cause as well as the problems associated with the opposing side. Intensification can be accomplished through three techniques: repetition, association and composition.
Repetition involves the presentation of a message often enough so that it becomes known and
comfortable. This technique is associated with educational drills, and in its higher forms, with
family customs and religious ritual.
Association involves the linking of an idea to something the audience already knows and
understands. In a positive context, this would involve something the audience likes, trust and
appreciates. In a negative context, it would involve something the audience dislikes, rejects or
Composition is the use of a visual or verbal pattern or presentation that adds to the power of the message. An example of this is the use of background music to an advertising message for the purpose of conveying, for example, a sense of calm or a stirring call to action.
Downplay. A related (and often simultaneous) technique is to downplay or minimize the benefits of the opposition’s case as well as problem associated with your side. Downplaying can be achieved by three techniques: omission, diversion and confusion.
Omission is communication that is biased, misleading, or lacking in the full picture
Diversion is the deliberate intensification of trivial or unrelated information in order to draw
attention away from logical analysis of an issue. Examples of this include nit-picking, hairsplitting, emotional personal attacks, and condescending distracting humor.
Confusion involves the over-communication of detail to make a message to complex that it
cannot be understood. Associated with this is the use of contradictions, faulty logic,
inconsistencies, and other elements of messages that hampers understanding.
Traditionally, the word propaganda refers to the transmission of information to promote a cause or
In contemporary usage, the word refers to persuasive social or ideological communication that is
biased and unethical, either incomplete or misleading information as well as outright lies. It is seen as
one’s cause or to damage an opponent’s cause. Sometimes called misinformation, propaganda lacks
the honest intent, mutual respect, and commitment to open communication associated with the
proper use of persuasion. Indeed, propaganda is often encountered in situations of heavy control or
manipulation by the media, such as in Hitler’s Germany or the former Soviet Russia. Depending on
a critic’s political bias, charges of propaganda also may be made against the Sharon government in
Israel, the Bush administration in Washington, the Protestant rulers in Northern Ireland, pre- or
post-Saddam regime in Iraq, or virtually any other political or military power.
Communication scholars have categorized propaganda in several ways. Here is the categorization
established by philosopher Jacques Ellul (1912-1994), who saw propaganda as a highly organized
top-down, politically motivated strategy for controlling a population. He observed that the power
and reach of mass media create an environment that makes propaganda possible.
I. Pre-propaganda involves the creation of images, stereotypes, ambiguities and social myths that
prepare people for later manipulation and action.
Political versus sociological propaganda. Political propaganda is carried out by a body such as a government or political party with definite goals. Sociological propaganda is based on a general climate of opinion operating subtly, without the appearance of propaganda.
Agitation versus integration propaganda. Agitation propaganda is used to whip up public
support for war or some other goal that involves a high degree of sacrifice. Integration
propaganda seeks conformity to stabilize society and reinforce social cohesion.
Vertical versus horizontal propaganda. Vertical propaganda comes from the top down, often in a coordinated implementation, whereas horizontal propaganda is animated within the masses by large numbers of loosely-organized groups.
Irrational versus rational propaganda. Irrational propaganda is fostered through the use of
symbols, myths, emotive appeals, and so on. Rational propaganda is based on the appearance of
logic, reason, facts and figures, though in reality the facts often subvert or misrepresent the
Some of the strategies of propaganda include the establishment of demagogues or charismatic
leaders, the co-opting of the media, and the manipulation of language. Following are several
commonly identified examples of such tactics. Note that the propaganda aspect of these techniques
generally involves the relevance and accuracy of the information and whether the impression left on
an audience is an honest one.
Glittering generality refers to the use of “virtue words” that lack definition or that have varying definitions. Examples: “free speech,” “materialistic society.” Ethically, this technique has little use for legitimate persuasive purposes, because its purpose is the mask and mislead.
Transfer is the technique of taking something with authority, prestige or acceptance and carrying it over to something else for the purpose of giving authority, prestige or acceptance to the latter. It is the association of something with claims of goodness or godliness, purity or political correctness. Example: Photographing a political candidate in front of a religious building, implying that the candidate espouses religious values. This can be a legitimate persuasive technique if the impression is accurate; it becomes propaganda when there is little or no consistency between the person and the value portrayed.
Name-calling is the negative alternative to transfer, in which an opponent is associated with
unsavory people or causes or is made out to be a scapegoat, belittled, or accused of evil thoughts and deeds. Unless the allegations are true and relevant, there is no ethical use of this technique.
Testimony involves having a respected (or hated) figure say that an idea, program or product is
good (or bad). This is a legitimate persuasive technique used in journalism, public relations and
advertising when the testimony is accurate and not misleading.
Plain folks is a technique of implying that the speaker is just one of the people, and his or her
ideas are good because they reflect the audience or the simple everyday person. This technique
takes the focus off the substance and put it on the style and delivery of the presentation. This
makes it an ethically dubious technique.
Card-stacking refers to the selection and use of false, incomplete, illogical or misleading
information in order to produce a good (or bad) impression. There are no legitimate persuasive
uses of this technique.
Band-wagon is the name of a propaganda technique that attempts to persuade on the premise
that everybody else is doing this. Ethically it is valid only to the extent that it is accurate.
Journalists and public relations practitioners use polls as a way of informing people about what
others are doing.
Repetition is the presentation of the same information over and over again. This sometimes in
known as the big lie, an outrageous falsehood that some hearers accept when it is repeated often enough and which is virtually impossible to defend against because it involves a conscious and arrogant manufacturing and misuse of information.
Bold assertions refer to the use of dubious and exaggerated claims, such as the use of the terms “undeniable” or “unquestionably,” which diverts the audience attention from the validity of the information. There is no ethical justification for making unsubstantiated claims.
Selective omission occurs when information is one-sided; that is, when only some facts are
given. The facts are true, but their incomplete nature can mislead the audience. Indeed, that is
the reason for selective omission, and because of that it has no ethical use as a persuasive
Quoting out of context is another propagandistic technique, a particularly reprehensible one
because it co-opts another person in an effort to mislead. Presenting someone’s partial views
often leaves the wrong impression on an audience. As such, it has no legitimate or ethical use in