Normatively Responsible Advocacy: Some Provocations from Persuasion Effects Research

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This chapter addresses one aspect of the relationship between argumentation studies and social-scientific persuasion effects research. Persuasion effects research aims at understanding how and why persuasive messages have the effects they do; that is, persuasion effects research has descriptive and explanatory aims. Argumentation studies, on the other hand, is at its base animated by normative concerns; the broad aim is to articulate conceptions of normatively desirable argumentative practice, both in the abstract and in application to particular instances, with a corresponding pedagogical aim of improving discourse practices. Thus one of these enterprises is dominated by descriptive and explanatory concerns and the other by normative interests.

In some previous work I have explored the relationship between these two undertakings by taking up the question of whether there is any intrinsic conflict between normatively-sound argumentation practices and practical persuasive success (e.g., O'Keefe, 2003). The empirical evidence appears to indicate that a number of normatively-desirable advocacy practices - including clearly articulating one's overall standpoint (O'Keefe, 2002), spelling out one's supporting evidence and arguments (O'Keefe, 1998), and refuting counterarguments (O'Keefe, 1999) - commonly improve one's chances for persuasive success.

This chapter approaches the relationship of normative argumentation studies and descriptive persuasion effects research from a different angle, by pointing to several empirical findings that raise questions or puzzles about normatively-proper argumentative conduct. My purpose here is less to offer definitive conclusions about normative analyses of advocacy, and more to point to some social-scientific research findings that indicate complexities in the analysis of normatively desirable argumentative conduct - including some ways in which practical persuasive success may not be entirely compatible with normatively-desirable advocacy practices.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationPondering on Problems of Argumentation
Subtitle of host publicationTwenty Essays on Theoretical Issues
EditorsFrans H van Eemeren, Bart Garssen
Place of PublicationBerlin
PublisherSpringer Science+Business Media, LLC
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781402091650
ISBN (Print)9781402091643
StatePublished - 2009


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