11.4 Persuasive Strategies

Learning Objectives

  1. Identify common persuasive strategies.
  2. Explain how speakers develop ethos.
  3. Explain how speakers appeal to logos and pathos.
  4. Explain how cognitive dissonance works as a persuasive strategy.
  5. Explain the relationship between motivation and appeals to needs as persuasive strategies.

Do you think you are easily persuaded? If you are like most people, you aren’t swayed easily to change your mind about something. Persuasion is difficult because changing views often makes people feel like they were either not informed or ill informed, which also means they have to admit they were wrong about something. We will learn about nine persuasive strategies that you can use to more effectively influence audience members’ beliefs, attitudes, and values. They are ethos, logos, pathos, positive motivation, negative motivation, cognitive dissonance, appeal to safety needs, appeal to social needs, and appeal to self-esteem needs.

Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

Ethos, logos, and pathos were Aristotle’s three forms of rhetorical proof, meaning they were primary to his theories of persuasion. Ethos refers to the credibility of a speaker and includes three dimensions: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism. The two most researched dimensions of credibility are competence and trustworthiness (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003).

Competence refers to the perception of a speaker’s expertise in relation to the topic being discussed. A speaker can enhance their perceived competence by presenting a speech based in solid research and that is well organized and practiced. Competent speakers must know the content of their speech and be able to effectively deliver that content. Trustworthiness refers to the degree that audience members perceive a speaker to be presenting accurate, credible information in a nonmanipulative way. Perceptions of trustworthiness come from the content of the speech and the personality of the speaker. In terms of content, trustworthy speakers consider the audience throughout the speech-making process, present information in a balanced way, do not coerce the audience, cite credible sources, and follow the general principles of communication ethics. In terms of personality, trustworthy speakers are also friendly and warm (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003).

Dynamism refers to the degree to which audience members perceive a speaker to be outgoing and animated (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003). Two components of dynamism are charisma and energy. Charisma refers to a mixture of abstract and concrete qualities that make a speaker attractive to an audience. Charismatic people usually know they are charismatic because they’ve been told that in their lives, and people have been attracted to them.


Dynamic speakers develop credibility through their delivery skills.

Unfortunately, charisma is difficult to intentionally develop, and some people seem to have a naturally charismatic personality, while others do not. Even though everyone can’t embody the charismatic aspect of dynamism, the other component of dynamism, energy, is something that everyone can tap into. Communicating enthusiasm for your topic and audience by presenting relevant content and using engaging delivery strategies such as vocal variety and eye contact can increase your dynamism.

Logos refers to the reasoning or logic of an argument. The presence of fallacies would obviously undermine a speaker’s appeal to logos. Speakers employ logos by presenting credible information as supporting material and verbally citing their sources during their speech. Using the guidelines from our earlier discussion of reasoning will also help a speaker create a rational appeal. Research shows that messages are more persuasive when arguments and their warrants are made explicit (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003). Carefully choosing supporting material that is verifiable, specific, and unbiased can help a speaker appeal to logos. Speakers can also appeal to logos by citing personal experience and providing the credentials and/or qualifications of sources of information (Cooper & Nothstine, 1996). Presenting a rational and logical argument is important, but speakers can be more effective persuaders if they bring in and refute counterarguments. The most effective persuasive messages are those that present two sides of an argument and refute the opposing side, followed by single argument messages, followed by messages that present counterarguments but do not refute them (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003). In short, by clearly showing an audience why one position is superior to another, speakers do not leave an audience to fill in the blanks of an argument, which could diminish the persuasive opportunity.

Pathos refers to emotional appeals. Aristotle was suspicious of too much emotional appeal, yet this appears to have become more acceptable in public speaking. Stirring emotions in an audience is a way to get them involved in the speech, and involvement can create more opportunities for persuasion and action. Reading in the paper that a house was burglarized may get your attention, but think about how different your reaction would be if you found out it was your own home. Intentionally stirring someone’s emotions to get them involved in a message that has little substance would be unethical. Yet such spellbinding speakers have taken advantage of people’s emotions to get them to support causes, buy products, or engage in behaviors that they might not otherwise, if given the chance to see the faulty logic of a message.

Effective speakers should use emotional appeals that are also logically convincing, since audiences may be suspicious of a speech that is solely based on emotion. Emotional appeals are effective when you are trying to influence a behavior or you want your audience to take immediate action (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003). Emotions lose their persuasive effect more quickly than other types of persuasive appeals. Since emotions are often reactionary, they fade relatively quickly when a person is removed from the provoking situation (Fletcher, 2001).

Emotional appeals are also difficult for some because they require honed delivery skills and the ability to use words powerfully and dramatically. The ability to use vocal variety, cadence, and repetition to rouse an audience’s emotion is not easily attained. Think of how stirring Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech was due to his ability to evoke the emotions of the audience. Dr. King used powerful and creative language in conjunction with his vocalics to deliver one of the most famous speeches in our history. Using concrete and descriptive examples can paint a picture in your audience member’s minds. Speakers can also use literal images, displayed using visual aids, to appeal to pathos.

Speakers should strive to appeal to ethos, logos, and pathos within a speech. A speech built primarily on ethos might lead an audience to think that a speaker is full of himself or herself. A speech full of facts and statistics appealing to logos would result in information overload. Speakers who rely primarily on appeals to pathos may be seen as overly passionate, biased, or unable to see other viewpoints.

Review of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos

  1. Ethos relates to the credibility of a speaker. Speakers develop ethos by
    • appearing competent, trustworthy, and dynamic;
    • sharing their credentials and/or relevant personal experience;
    • presenting a balanced and noncoercive argument;
    • citing credible sources;
    • using appropriate language and grammar;
    • being perceived as likable; and
    • appearing engaged with the topic and audience through effective delivery.
  2. Logos relates to the reasoning and logic of an argument. Speakers appeal to logos by
    • presenting factual, objective information that serves as reasons to support the argument;
    • presenting a sufficient amount of relevant examples to support a proposition;
    • deriving conclusions from known information; and
    • using credible supporting material like expert testimony, definitions, statistics, and literal or historical analogies.
  3. Pathos relates to the arousal of emotion through speech. Speakers appeal to pathos by
    • using vivid language to paint word pictures for audience members;
    • providing lay testimony (personal stories from self or others);
    • using figurative language such as metaphor, similes, and personification; and
    • using vocal variety, cadence, and repetition.

Dissonance, Motivation, and Needs

Aristotle’s three rhetorical proofs—ethos, logos, and pathos—have been employed as persuasive strategies for thousands of years. More recently, persuasive strategies have been identified based on theories and evidence related to human psychology. Although based in psychology, such persuasive strategies are regularly employed and researched in communication due to their role in advertising, marketing, politics, and interpersonal relationships. The psychologically based persuasive appeals we will discuss are cognitive dissonance, positive and negative motivation, and appeals to needs.

Cognitive Dissonance

If you’ve studied music, you probably know what dissonance is. Some notes, when played together on a piano, produce a sound that’s pleasing to our ears. When dissonant combinations of notes are played, we react by wincing or cringing because the sound is unpleasant to our ears. So dissonance is that unpleasant feeling we get when two sounds clash. The same principle applies to cognitive dissonance, which refers to the mental discomfort that results when new information clashes with or contradicts currently held beliefs, attitudes, or values. Using cognitive dissonance as a persuasive strategy relies on three assumptions: (1) people have a need for consistency in their thinking; (2) when inconsistency exists, people experience psychological discomfort; and (3) this discomfort motivates people to address the inconsistency to restore balance (Stiff & Mongeau, 2003). In short, when new information clashes with previously held information, there is an unpleasantness that results, as we have to try to reconcile the difference.

Cognitive dissonance isn’t a single-shot persuasive strategy. As we have learned, people are resistant to change and not easy to persuade. While we might think that exposure to conflicting information would lead a rational person to change his or her mind, humans aren’t as rational as we think.


New, larger, and more graphic warning labels on cigarette packaging are meant to induce cognitive dissonance.

There are many different mental and logical acrobatics that people do to get themselves out of dissonance. Some frequently used strategies to resolve cognitive dissonance include discrediting the speaker or source of information, viewing yourself as an exception, seeking selective information that supports your originally held belief, or intentionally avoiding or ignoring sources of cognitive dissonance (Cooper & Nothstine, 1996). As you can see, none of those actually results in a person modifying their thinking, which means persuasive speech goals are not met. Of course, people can’t avoid dissonant information forever, so multiple attempts at creating cognitive dissonance can actually result in thought or behavior modification.

Positive and Negative Motivation

Positive and negative motivation are common persuasive strategies used by teachers, parents, and public speakers. Rewards can be used for positive motivation, and the threat of punishment or negative consequences can be used for negative motivation. We’ve already learned the importance of motivating an audience to listen to your message by making your content relevant and showing how it relates to their lives. We also learned an organizational pattern based on theories of motivation: Monroe’s Motivated Sequence. When using positive motivation, speakers implicitly or explicitly convey to the audience that listening to their message or following their advice will lead to positive results. Conversely, negative motivation implies or states that failure to follow a speaker’s advice will result in negative consequences. Positive and negative motivation as persuasive strategies match well with appeals to needs and will be discussed more next.

Appeals to Needs

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that there are several layers of needs that human beings pursue. They include physiological, safety, social, self-esteem, and self-actualization needs (Maslow, 1943). Since these needs are fundamental to human survival and happiness, tapping into needs is a common persuasive strategy. Appeals to needs are often paired with positive or negative motivation, which can increase the persuasiveness of the message.

Figure 11.3 Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs


Physiological needs form the base of the hierarchy of needs. The closer the needs are to the base, the more important they are for human survival. Speakers do not appeal to physiological needs. After all, a person who doesn’t have food, air, or water isn’t very likely to want to engage in persuasion, and it wouldn’t be ethical to deny or promise these things to someone for persuasive gain. Some speakers attempt to appeal to self-actualization needs, but I argue that this is difficult to do ethically. Self-actualization refers to our need to achieve our highest potential, and these needs are much more intrapersonal than the others. We achieve our highest potential through things that are individual to us, and these are often things that we protect from outsiders. Some examples include pursuing higher education and intellectual fulfillment, pursuing art or music, or pursuing religious or spiritual fulfillment. These are often things we do by ourselves and for ourselves, so I like to think of this as sacred ground that should be left alone. Speakers are more likely to be successful at focusing on safety, social, and self-esteem needs.

We satisfy our safety needs when we work to preserve our safety and the safety of our loved ones. Speakers can combine appeals to safety with positive motivation by presenting information that will result in increased safety and security. Combining safety needs and negative motivation, a speaker may convey that audience members’ safety and security will be put at risk if the speaker’s message isn’t followed. Combining negative motivation and safety needs depends on using some degree of fear as a motivator. Think of how the insurance industry relies on appeals to safety needs for their business. While this is not necessarily a bad strategy, it can be done more or less ethically.

Ethics of Using Fear Appeals

  • Do not overuse fear appeals.
  • The threat must be credible and supported by evidence.
  • Empower the audience to address the threat.

I saw a perfect example of a persuasive appeal to safety while waiting at the shop for my car to be fixed. A pamphlet cover with a yellow and black message reading, “Warning,” and a stark black and white picture of a little boy picking up a ball with the back fender of a car a few feet from his head beckoned to me from across the room. The brochure was produced by an organization called Kids and Cars, whose tagline is “Love them, protect them.” While the cover of the brochure was designed to provoke the receiver and compel them to open the brochure, the information inside met the ethical guidelines for using fear appeals. The first statistic noted that at least two children a week are killed when they are backed over in a driveway or parking lot. The statistic is followed by safety tips to empower the audience to address the threat. You can see a video example of how this organization effectively uses fear appeals in Video 11.1.

Video Clip 11.1

Kids and Cars: Bye-Bye Syndrome

(click to see video)

This video illustrates how a fear appeal aimed at safety needs can be persuasive. The goal is to get the attention of audience members and compel them to check out the information the organization provides. Since the information provided by the organization supports the credibility of the threat, empowers the audience to address the threat, and is free, this is an example of an ethical fear appeal.

Our social needs relate to our desire to belong to supportive and caring groups. We meet social needs through interpersonal relationships ranging from acquaintances to intimate partnerships. We also become part of interest groups or social or political groups that help create our sense of identity. The existence and power of peer pressure is a testament to the motivating power of social needs. People go to great lengths and sometimes make poor decisions they later regret to be a part of the “in-group.” Advertisers often rely on creating a sense of exclusivity to appeal to people’s social needs. Positive and negative motivation can be combined with social appeals. Positive motivation is present in messages that promise the receiver “in-group” status or belonging, and negative motivation can be seen in messages that persuade by saying, “Don’t be left out.” Although these arguments may rely on the bandwagon fallacy to varying degrees, they draw out insecurities people have about being in the “out-group.”

We all have a need to think well of ourselves and have others think well of us, which ties to our self-esteem needs. Messages that combine appeals to self-esteem needs and positive motivation often promise increases in respect and status. A financial planner may persuade by inviting a receiver to imagine prosperity that will result from accepting his or her message. A publicly supported radio station may persuade listeners to donate money to the station by highlighting a potential contribution to society. The health and beauty industries may persuade consumers to buy their products by promising increased attractiveness. While it may seem shallow to entertain such ego needs, they are an important part of our psychological makeup. Unfortunately, some sources of persuasive messages are more concerned with their own gain than the well-being of others and may take advantage of people’s insecurities in order to advance their persuasive message. Instead, ethical speakers should use appeals to self-esteem that focus on prosperity, contribution, and attractiveness in ways that empower listeners.

Review of Persuasive Strategies

  • Ethos. Develops a speaker’s credibility.
  • Logos. Evokes a rational, cognitive response from the audience.
  • Pathos. Evokes an emotional response from the audience.
  • Cognitive dissonance. Moves an audience by pointing out inconsistencies between new information and their currently held beliefs, attitudes, and values.
  • Positive motivation. Promises rewards if the speaker’s message is accepted.
  • Negative motivation. Promises negative consequences if a speaker’s message is rejected.
  • Appeals to safety needs. Evokes an audience’s concern for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.
  • Appeals to social needs. Evokes an audience’s need for belonging and inclusion.
  • Appeals to self-esteem needs. Evokes an audience’s need to think well of themselves and have others think well of them, too.

“Getting Competent”

Identifying Persuasive Strategies in Mary Fisher’s “Whisper of AIDS” Speech

Mary Fisher’s speech at the 1992 Republican National Convention, “A Whisper of AIDS,” is one of the most moving and powerful speeches of the past few decades. She uses, more than once, all the persuasive strategies discussed in this chapter. The video and transcript of her speech can be found at the following link: http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/maryfisher1992rnc.html. As you watch the speech, answer the following questions:

  1. Ethos. List specific examples of how the speaker develops the following dimensions of credibility: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism.
  2. Logos. List specific examples of how the speaker uses logic to persuade her audience.
  3. Pathos. How did the speaker appeal to emotion? What metaphors did she use? What other communicative strategies (wording, imagery, etc.) appealed to your emotions?
  4. List at least one example of how the speaker uses positive motivation.
  5. List at least one example of how the speaker uses negative motivation.
  6. List at least one example of how the speaker appeals to safety needs.
  7. List at least one example of how the speaker appeals to social needs.
  8. List at least one example of how the speaker utilizes cognitive dissonance.

Sample Persuasive Speech

Title: Education behind Bars Is the Key to Rehabilitation

General purpose: To persuade

Specific purpose: By the end of my speech, my audience will believe that prisoners should have the right to an education.

Thesis statement: There should be education in all prisons, because denying prisoners an education has negative consequences for the prisoner and society, while providing them with an education provides benefits for the prisoner and society.


Attention getter: “We must accept the reality that to confine offenders behind walls without trying to change them is an expensive folly with short-term benefits—winning battles while losing the war.” These words were spoken more than thirty years ago by Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, and they support my argument today that prisoners should have access to education.

Introduction of topic: While we value education as an important part of our society, we do not value it equally for all. Many people don’t believe that prisoners should have access to an education, but I believe they do.

Credibility and relevance: While researching this topic, my eyes were opened up to how much an education can truly affect a prisoner, and given my desire to be a teacher, I am invested in preserving the right to learn for everyone, even if they are behind bars. While I know from our audience analysis activity that some of you do not agree with me, you never know when this issue may hit close to home. Someday, someone you love might make a mistake in their life and end up in prison, and while they are there I know you all would want them to receive an education so that when they get out, they will be better prepared to make a contribution to society.

Preview: Today, I invite you listen with an open mind as I discuss the need for prisoner education, a curriculum that will satisfy that need, and some benefits of prisoner education.

Transition: First I’ll explain why prisoners need access to education.


  1. According to a 2012 article in the journal Corrections Today on correctional education programs, most states have experienced an increase in incarceration rates and budgetary constraints over the past ten years, which has led many to examine best practices for reducing prison populations.
    1. In that same article, criminologist and former research director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons states that providing correctional education is one of the most productive and important reentry services that our prisons offer.
      1. His claim is supported by data collected directly from prisoners, 94 percent of whom identify education as a personal reentry need—ranking it above other needs such as financial assistance, housing, or employment.
      2. Despite the fact that this need is clearly documented, funding for adult and vocational education in correctional education has decreased.
    2. Many prisoners have levels of educational attainment that are far below those in the general population.
      1. According to statistics from 2010, as cited in the Corrections Today article, approximately 40 percent of state prison inmates did not complete high school, as compared to 19 percent of the general population.
      2. Additionally, while about 48 percent of the general public have taken college classes, only about 11 percent of state prisoners have.
      3. At the skill level, research from the United Kingdom, cited in the 2003 article from Studies in the Education of Adults titled “Learning behind Bars: Time to Liberate Prison Education,” rates of illiteracy are much higher among the prison population than the general population, and there is a link between poor reading skills and social exclusion that may lead people to antisocial behavior.
    3. Prisoner education is also needed to break a cycle of negativity and stigma that many prisoners have grown accustomed to.
      1. The article from Studies in the Education of Adults that I just cited states that prisoners are often treated as objects or subjected to objectifying labels like “addict, sexual offender, and deviant.”
      2. While these labels may be accurate in many cases, they do not do much to move the prisoner toward rehabilitation.
      3. The label student, however, has the potential to do so because it has positive associations and can empower the prisoner to make better choices to enhance his or her confidence and self-worth.

    Transition: Now that I’ve established the need for prisoner education, let’s examine how we can meet that need.

  2. In order to meet the need for prisoner education that I have just explained, it is important to have a curriculum that is varied and tailored to various prisoner populations and needs.
    1. The article from Corrections Today notes that education is offered to varying degrees in most US prisons, but its presence is often debated and comes under increased scrutiny during times of budgetary stress.
      1. Some states have implemented programs that require inmates to attend school for a certain amount of time if they do not meet minimum standards for certain skills such as reading or math.
      2. While these are useful programs, prisoner education shouldn’t be limited to or focused on those with the least amount of skills.
      3. The article notes that even prisoners who have attended or even graduated from college may benefit from education, as they can pursue specialized courses or certifications.
    2. Based on my research, I would propose that the prison curriculum have four tiers: one that addresses basic skills that prisoners may lack, one that prepares prisoners for a GED, one that prepares prisoners for college-level work, and one that focuses on life and social skills.
      1. The first tier of the education program should focus on remediation and basic skills, which is the most common form of prisoner education as noted by Foley and Gao in their 2004 article from the Journal of Correctional Education that studied educational practices at several institutions.
        1. These courses will teach prisoners basic reading, writing, and math skills that may be lacking.
        2. Since there is a stigma associated with a lack of these basic skills, early instruction should be one-one-one or in small groups.
      2. The second tier should prepare prisoners who have not completed the equivalent of high school to progress on to a curriculum modeled after that of most high schools, which will prepare them for a GED.
      3. The third tier should include a curriculum based on the general education learning goals found at most colleges and universities and/or vocational training.
        1. Basic general education goals include speaking, writing, listening, reading, and math.
        2. Once these general education requirements have been met, prisoners should be able to pursue specialized vocational training or upper-level college courses in a major of study, which may need to be taken online through distance learning, since instructors may not be available to come to the actual prisons to teach.
      4. The fourth tier includes training in social and life skills that most people learn through family and peer connections, which many prisoners may not have had.
        1. Some population-specific areas of study that wouldn’t be covered in a typical classroom include drug treatment and anger management.
        2. Life skills such as budgeting, money management, and healthy living can increase confidence.
        3. Classes that focus on social skills, parenting, or relational communication can also improve communication skills and relational satisfaction; for example, workshops teaching parenting skills have been piloted to give fathers the skills needed to more effectively communicate with their children, which can increase feelings of self-worth.
    3. According to a 2007 article by Behan in the Journal of Correctional Education, prisons should also have extracurricular programs that enhance the educational experience.
      1. Under the supervision of faculty and/or staff, prisoners could be given the task of organizing an outside speaker to come to the prison or put together a workshop.
      2. Students could also organize a debate against students on the outside, which could allow the prisoners to interact (face-to-face or virtually) with other students and allow them to be recognized for their academic abilities.
      3. Even within the prison, debates, trivia contests, paper contests, or speech contests could be organized between prisoners or between prisoners and prison staff as a means of healthy competition.
      4. Finally, prisoners who are successful students should be recognized and put into peer-mentoring roles, because, as Behan states in the article, “a prisoner who…has had an inspirational learning experience acts as a more positive advocate for the school than any [other method].”

    Transition: The model for prisoner education that I have just outlined will have many benefits.

  3. Educating prisoners can benefit inmates, those who work in prisons, and society at large.
    1. The article I just cited from the Journal of Correctional Education states that the self-reflection and critical thinking that are fostered in an educational setting can help prisoners reflect on how their actions affected them, their victims, and/or their communities, which may increase self-awareness and help them better reconnect with a civil society and reestablish stronger community bonds.
    2. The Corrections Today article I cited earlier notes that a federally funded three-state survey provided the strongest evidence to date that prisoner education reduces the recidivism rate and increases public safety.
      1. The Corrections Today article also notes that prisoners who completed a GED reoffended at a rate 20 percent lower than the general prison population, and those that completed a college degree reoffended at a rate 44 percent lower than the general prison population.
      2. So why does prisoner education help reduce recidivism rates?
        1. Simply put, according to the article in the Studies in the Education of Adults I cited earlier, the skills gained through good prison education programs make released prisoners more desirable employees, which increases their wages and helps remove them from a negative cycles of stigma and poverty that led many of them to crime in the first place.
        2. Further, the ability to maintain consistent employment has been shown to reduce the rate of reoffending.
    3. Education doesn’t just improve the lives of the prisoners; it also positively affects the people who work in prisons.
      1. An entry on eHow.com by Kinney about the benefits of prisoners getting GEDs notes that a successful educational program in a prison can create a more humane environment that will positively affect the officers and staff as well.
      2. Such programs also allow prisoners to do more productive things with their time, which lessens violent and destructive behavior and makes prison workers’ jobs safer.
    4. Prisoner education can also save cash-strapped states money.
      1. Giving prisoners time-off-sentence credits for educational attainment can help reduce the prison population, as eligible inmates are released earlier because of their educational successes.
      2. As noted by the Corrections Today article, during the 2008–9 school year the credits earned by prisoners in the Indiana system led to more than $68 million dollars in avoided costs.


Transition to conclusion and summary of importance: In closing, it’s easy to see how beneficial a good education can be to a prisoner. Education may be something the average teenager or adult takes for granted, but for a prisoner it could be the start of a new life.

Review of main points: There is a clear need for prisoner education that can be met with a sound curriculum that will benefit prisoners, those who work in prisons, and society at large.

Closing statement: While education in prisons is still a controversial topic, I hope you all agree with me and Supreme Court Justice Burger, whose words opened this speech, when we say that locking a criminal away may offer a short-term solution in that it gets the criminal out of regular society, but it doesn’t better the prisoner and it doesn’t better us in the long run as a society.


Bayliss, P. (2003). Learning behind bars: Time to liberate prison education. Studies in the Education of Adults, 35(2), 157–172.

Behan, C. (2007). Context, creativity and critical reflection: Education in correctional institutions. Journal of Correctional Education, 58(2), 157–169.

Foley, R. (2004). Correctional education: Characteristics of academic programs serving incarcerated adults. Journal of Correctional Education, 55(1), 6–21.

Kinney, A. (2011). What are the benefits of inmates getting GEDs? Ehow.com. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/list_6018033_benefits-inmates-getting-geds_.html

Steurer, S. J., Linton, J., Nally, J., & Lockwood, S. (2010). The top-nine reasons to increase correctional education programs. Corrections Today, 72(4), 40–43.

Key Takeaways

  • Ethos refers to the credibility of a speaker and is composed of three dimensions: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism. Speakers develop ethos by being prepared, citing credible research, presenting information in a nonmanipulative way, and using engaging delivery techniques.
  • Logos refers to the reasoning or logic of an argument. Speakers appeal to logos by presenting factual objective information, using sound reasoning, and avoiding logical fallacies.
  • Pathos refers to emotional appeals. Speakers appeal to pathos by using vivid language, including personal stories, and using figurative language.
  • Cognitive dissonance refers to the mental discomfort that results from new information clashing with currently held beliefs, attitudes, or values. Cognitive dissonance may lead a person to be persuaded, but there are other ways that people may cope with dissonance, such as by discrediting the speaker, seeking out alternative information, avoiding sources of dissonance, or reinterpreting the information.
  • Speakers can combine positive and negative motivation with appeals to safety, social, or self-esteem needs in order to persuade.


  1. Ethos, or credibility, is composed of three dimensions: competence, trustworthiness, and dynamism. Of those dimensions, which is most important for you when judging someone’s credibility and why?
  2. Recount a time when you experienced cognitive dissonance. What was the new information and what did it clash with? What coping strategies, of the ones discussed in the chapter, did you use to try to restore cognitive balance?
  3. How ethical do you think it is for a speaker to rely on fear appeals? When do fear appeals cross the line?
  4. Imagine that you will be delivering a persuasive speech to a group of prospective students considering attending your school. What could you say that would appeal to their safety needs? Their social needs? Their self-esteem needs?


Cooper, M. D., and William L. Nothstine, Power Persuasion: Moving an Ancient Art into the Media Age (Greenwood, IN: Educational Video Group, 1996), 48.

Fletcher, L., How to Design and Deliver Speeches, 7th ed. (New York: Longman, 2001), 342.

Maslow, A. H., “A Theory of Human Motivation,” Psychological Review 50 (1943): 370–96.

Stiff, J. B., and Paul A. Mongeau, Persuasive Communication, 2nd ed. (New York: Guilford Press, 2003), 105.

This is a derivative of Communication in the Real World: An Introduction to Communication Studies by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, which was originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.