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An Attitude - the Incubator Incident - the Correlation Between Ethos, Pathos and Logos

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Autor:   •  January 3, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  3,598 Words (15 Pages)  •  806 Views

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A message is worth least without a source

An Attitude is a mixture of belief and emotion that predisposes a person to respond to other people, object, or institutions in a positive or negative way (Mitterer& Coon, 2007,p.632). Attitudes summarize our evaluation of objects (Oskamp & Schultz, 2005).Put another way, evaluation of objects come before an attitude formation. Understanding how an attitude is formed is prerequisite for examining how do sources play a prominent role in forming a new attitude to substitute the audience current attitude.

In communication perspective, a communication process is comprised of 4 elements, i.e. source, message, receiver, and feedback (Dominick, 2002, p.4). The attitudinal change among audiences is evident when we scrutinize the feedback of the audience as the audience feedback could be either a positive feedback (attitude) or a negative feedback (attitude) towards the message that originated from source. Thus, how an attitude changes or how a new attitude substitutes the current attitude is depending on how the audience (receiver) evaluate particular message from particular source/sources.

This further reinforces the notion of attitudinal changes can be traced to the sources that presented the message. Imagine that you are in a situation where your lecturer and your course mate told you that there will have no essay questions in your final exam next week, both of them are telling you the same message but which one of them can make you feel more positive or relief towards your final exam? This scenario shows that a same message from different sources can have different impact on a same individual and it also implies that the source has dominant role over the message. How would anyone evaluate a message without knowing its source? In short, a message is worth least without a source.

What makes the source persuasive?

Most of the scholars, if not all, who wrote about the art of persuasion will discuss about how to establish the speaker (source) credibility because the message is made and delivered by the source, if the source is not credible, there is no point to look at the message. Aristotle (1984), an ancient Greek philosopher and guru of persuasion, asserted in Rhetoric that there are 3 important elements to persuade someone to change an attitude which are Ethos(credibility),Pathos(emotional appeal) and Logos(logic).

Aristotle favors that the message effectiveness is relying on the speaker (source) ability, who is trustworthy, to tailor-made it to appeal to the audience emotionally with certain level of logical sense but not the message itself. It is convinced that the source is has a dominant role than a message to change people's attitude.

In the art of public speaking, Stephen Lucas (2004, p.428) also asserted that through out all the notions and ideas about how people is persuaded have been brought out, from ancient time until now, listeners can be persuaded by a speaker for not more than 4 reasons: the speaker's high credibility, evidence, reasoning skill, and emotional appeal. In my opinion, the speaker's credibility and emotional appeal are far more crucial than the evidence and reasoning skill.

The audiences will change their attitudes towards certain issue as long as they trust the source will not lie to them and the source touches their heart disregarding the evidence and reasoning skill. I insist on using the term "source" in lieu of "sources" because I believe that if a person trusts a source, one will not resort to alternative sources to confirm the original source accuracy and they will rule out possibility that alternatives sources are credible.

The incubator incident

The incubator incident is one of the classic and vivid examples to strengthen this notion. During Persian Gulf War in 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, A PR agency is hired by an organization named Citizens for a Free Kuwait to marshal public relations support to ask United States government to launch a war to liberate Kuwait from Iraq. The PR agency found out that the Americans are more likely to go for war to end atrocities than to protect the supply of oil.

Thus, the agency released Nayirah, a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, testimonial in public and her testimonial is as followed: "I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital(Kuwait city) with guns, and go into the room where 15 babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die." This incident which known as "incubator incident" has become a rallying cry(attitude change) for war. Even George Bush, the president of the United States favored the war to end atrocities.

After Kuwaitis get back their homeland, the "incubator incident" existence is being questioned. We never know that with certainty .What is known is that sufficient circumstantial evidence exists to lead a reasonable person to doubt the veracity of Nayirah's claim(Guth&Marsh,2003,p.162).If we examined on how the Americans were persuaded to change the attitudes to go for war , they are persuaded because of the Kuwaiti girl, the source. In other words, the American might have launched a war to liberate Kuwait from Iraq without a no valid reason.

Nobody ,including the president of the United States, ever question the source credibility as nobody have the resources and time to get into Kuwait to authenticate the incident. Americans trusted "incubator incident" owing to several reasons: the girl is from Kuwait, she knows more about Kuwait than any other American, there are no available resources to authenticate the message or evidence. The Americans also have the common assumption that children are not good in pretending and tend to be trustworthy than adult although her ability to recall and express the incident vividly when she is in fear are doubtful.

In a nutshell, the attitudinal change among American is owing to the source credibility and the source emotional appeal that have greater role than source's ability to reasoning and evidence as the former have successfully make no one to evaluate the Kuwaiti girl ability of reasoning and evidence provided by her .

Social scientific approach on the source potency

The incubator incident aforesaid is similar to Petty& Cacioppo's (1986) elaboration likelihood model (ELM). Americans tend to be persuaded because the source


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