Strategic and Rhetorical Analysis of an Article

Strategic and Rhetorical Analysis of an Article
Ethos, pathos and logos refer to styles of persuasion employed be
speakers or writers to convince their audience. Ethos is a style of
persuasion that seeks to convince an audience that the author is
credible or of good character. Authors would employ ethos in their works
to show their audience that they are a credible source that audience
should find worthy listening to (Campbell & Huxman, 2009). There are
several techniques an author can use to develop ethos, and these
include: using language that suits the audience and topic of discussion
not sounding biased stating one’s expertise or pedigree and
employing appropriate grammar and syntax. From the cover illustration,
it is evident that the story “Sixth Sense was published in a magazine
called Psychology Today. This is an indication that the stories in the
magazines are written by experts in the field of psychology. This
convinces the audiences that the author of the “Sixth Sense” has the
authority and expertise, and therefore he is a credible source of
Pathos refers to emotional appeal and authors achieve this by appealing
to their audience emotionally. Authors utilize pathos to arouse sympathy
from their audience, and make them have emotional experiences that the
author wants them to have (Campbell & Huxman, 2009). Authors commonly
use pathos to invoke pity from their audience, or inspire anger in them
in order to make them act (Lutzke, Jaclyn & Henggeler, 2009). On the
cover of Psychology Today, the author uses a catchy headline that is
aimed at eliciting emotions in potential readers. The title “Sixth
Sense: Premonitions, Déjà vu, Coincidences, Near-Death Experience”
elicits a variety of emotions and curiosity in potential readers because
many people are always interested in the issues discussed in the
Logos is appeal to logic or convincing an audience through logic or
reason. Using logos entails citing statistics or facts quoting
authorities and utilizing historical and literal explanations. Authors
can develop logos by utilizing advanced abstract or theoretical language
and by coming up with logical arguments (DiCicco, 1995). On the cover of
Psychology Today, the author uses abstraction and theoretical language
to logical appeal to the audience. The title “Sixth Sense” is highly
theoretic because in reality there are only five senses, but the author
uses the title sixth sense to appeal to the logical of his potential
audience. Based on the rhetoric, the target audiences are college
educated individuals who do not have any strong religious affiliations.
This is because the article seeks to provide a scientific or a logical
explanation of issues that have been surrounded with myths,
superstitions and various religious beliefs.
According to Campbell and Huxman (2009), rhetorical discourses can be
evaluated based on four standards, which includes truth (discourse
matching the reality it addresses), aesthetics (artistic standard),
effectiveness (the effect standard), and ethical/moral standard. In the
article, the author uses five pictures in explaining his points. All the
five pictures contain some paranormal features that enhance the points
made by the author. For example, the first picture is an illustration of
how our minds can play tricks on us in terms of perception. The picture
is an indication of how our sight perceives objects in a haphazard
manner, and these perceptions are later organized by our minds to make
sense. The second picture is an illustration of how our minds always try
to make sense out of weird situations by rearranging facts. This is
evident from the fact that the lady in the picture is starring at clouds
but end up seeing the symbol of cupid.
The third picture is also an illustration of perception and how our
minds can play tricks on us. The picture is an illustration of how
certain experiences can look familiar to us even when we never
encountered them before. The fourth picture is a depiction of out of
body experience, while the fifth picture is a depiction of paranormal
occurrences like seeing the ghosts of deceased relative. The pictures
are done in dull colors like white, black and blue and this assisted to
bring out clearly the emotions and issues discussed by the author.
Issues like near-death and out of body experience are dull and
emotionally changed, and the dull colored pictures are an effective way
of conveying this to the audience.
Based on the standard of truth, the pictures match the reality they
address. All the five pictures reinforce the points and arguments being
made in the article. The main point in the article is how our perception
brings about the paranormal experiences some people claim to have
undergone, and all the pictures convey this point. Aesthetics as a
standard deals with nature of art, beauty, and appreciation of art.
Based on this, the pictures used by the author in the article have high
artistic standards. The second, fourth and fifth picture are very
effective in supplementing and conveying the message being put across by
the author. The first and the third pictures also reinforce the points
being put across by the author but in a subtle way. The author also
observes ethical/moral standards in the picture he uses except the last
picture depicting a man having a conversation with a skeleton. People
who are superstitious may find this wrong and disturbing.
If someone fails to read the article and only looks at the display type
and graphics, the message he/she is likely to get is that of a
superstitious subject may be dealing with witchcraft or religious
beliefs. This is because of the photos depicting out of body experience
and a human having a conversation with a skeleton. This differs from the
message in the text because the message in the text is not superstitious
and it gives a scientific explanation of events some people consider
superstitious or religious.
In explaining anomalous experiences (out of the ordinary experiences),
the author uses the “sense of being starred at” and déjà vu as
evidence. For example, he argues that sometimes one may feel like
somebody is starring at them, and when they turn to look, their eyes
meets those of a potential suspect. Moreover, when one gets the feeling
that he/she is being starred at, and checks to confirm their suspicion,
the body movements may attract attention confirming one’s suspicion.
The author uses this example to prove that the conscious mind always
tries to form a coherent story from all our sensations and perception.
He also adds that people who are superstitious may explain this event
using concepts like luck, spirits, psychic power, or witchcraft among
The author also use déjà vu as an evidence of an anomalous
experience, and provide statistical evidence by claiming that 2 out 3
people experience this phenomenon. A déjà vu is an experience whereby
an individual feels that something, someone, or an event is familiar
without actually recalling why a phenomenon is familiar. People who are
superstitious may consider a déjà vu as memories of their past lives.
However, the authors argue that scientifically a déjà vu can be caused
by thoughts being experienced twice as a result of delays in the brain.
The author also argues that pattern-finding is one of the factors
responsible for out of the ordinary experiences by creating meaningful
coincidences. The author uses the story of Mark David Chapman, who
killed John Lennon as evidence of meaningful coincidence. Chapman saw up
to 50 coincidences between Holden Caulfield’s life (a character in The
Catcher in the Rye) and his own life. Chapman saw these coincidences as
signs indicating that he should kill John Lennon.
In demonstrating the belief in psychic abilities or the sixth sense,
the author uses the story of a landslide that occurred in Aberfan Wales
in 1966 as evidence. This disaster killed 116 children and 28 adults,
and a psychiatrist asked for individuals who had premonitions of the
disaster. The psychiatrist received several letters in which people
reported of having dreams of children, avalanches, and Aberfan, the name
of the town, prior to the disaster. The author argues that these
premonitions are caused by various psychological factors with one of
them being selective attention. The author also uses near-death and out
of body experiences as a proof of anomalous experience and the existence
of the sixth sense. He gives an example of a woman who went to see a
dentist and end up having a very serious allergic reaction. The woman
claimed to have had near-death experience which was then followed by out
of body experience, and she was able to see her own body laying at the
dentist office unconscious. The author also provides statistical
evidence by claiming that six to twelve percent of people who suffer
from a heart attack report of having out of body experience.
Most people normally give religious interpretation to near-death and
out of body experience. However, the author argues that such perceptions
are sometimes caused by drugs, fear, trauma, or they can have no
specific cause at all. Some scholars have explained out of body
experience from a physiological perspective and stated that such
experiences are caused by too much or too little oxygen supplies to the
brain. The author also uses contact with spirits as an evidence of
anomalous experience or existence of the sixth sense. In regard to this,
the author cites the murder trial of Stephen Young that took place in
England in 1994. In this trial the jury found Young guilty after
consulting with ghost of the man who was murdered. However, when the
judge learnt about this occurrence, he ordered the retrial of Young.
In supporting the above evidence, the author also provide statistical
evidence by stating that Gallup polls indicates that 32 percent of
Americans believe that spirits of the dead can come back, while another
37 percent believe in the notion of haunted houses. The author argues
that perception of dead spirits is sometimes caused by what is referred
to as a sense of presence.
One of the fallacies the author makes in his arguments is related to
near-death and out of body experiences. The author only states that such
experiences may be caused by too much or too little oxygen, high carbon
dioxide levels, but he does not provide a logical sequence of how these
factors can lead to out of body experience. The second fallacy can be
seen in the way the author explains contact with spirits. The author
only states that the notion of contact with spirits is caused by a sense
of presence. This does not provide a logical and adequate explanation
for this phenomenon that can convince the reader.
The enthymematic response the author wants his audience to form is that
paranormal occurrences are largely as a result of our perception and not
as a result of divine intervention. The author is writing from a modern
point of view and this is evident in the first sentence of the article
which states “Perhaps you’ve lived this moment before” (Hutson,
2013, para. 1). The arguments by the author are deductive in nature
because he argues from the known to unknown. The author talks about
various known paranormal experiences and the poplar myths used to
explain them before narrowing down to scientific explanations which are
still unknown to many.
One of the ethical choices the author might have encountered is
concerned with the possibility of angering some people by appearing to
be looking down on their beliefs. This is especially true given the fact
that the writing deals with issues that have religious and spiritual
meaning to most people. Second, the authors may also appear to be
undermining some of the most unique and life changing experience people
have had especially in regard to the experiences of the individuals he
uses as an example.
DiCicco, M.M. (1995). Paul`s use of ethos, pathos, and logos in 2
Corinthians 10-13. Lewiston: Lampeter: Mellen Biblical Press.
Campbell, K.K. & Huxman, S.S. (2009). The Rhetorical Act Thinking,
Speaking and Writing Critically. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub. Co.
Hutson, M. (2013). “Your Sixth Sense.” Psychology Today. Retrieved
from web February 21, 2013
Lutzke, J. & Henggeler, M.F. (2009). The Rhetorical Triangle:
Understanding and Using Logos, Ethos, and Pathos. Retrieved from web
February 21, 2013