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12: Logos

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    Whenever we walk by a poster or flier or we simply watch a commercial that pops up on TV, we may notice statistics from research studies and other facts about the specific product advertised. All the numbers, facts, and data that you have noticed in the advertisement are to persuade us, the consumers, to buy the product or do something. This method of persuasion is defined as Logos, and it refers to logic and reason when presenting an argument. We can also speak of Logos in a broader sense beyond statistics, facts, and data to refer to the message that is presented to the audience in a logical and well-structured manner. In Greek, the word logos means “what is said”: word, sentence, argument, reason, speech.  

    Bennetch et al. (65) explain logos as objective, intellectual, and calm, suggesting that authors must use careful structure, logic and evidence to persuade the audience. Additionally, the audience can be persuaded by providing fact-checked information and strong, non-biased explanations to support the author’s arguments.  

     

    History of Logos 

    Logos was first identified and explained by an ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle. He argued in On Rhetoric that the rules that govern the ideal rhetoric in one-on-one communication do not apply when speaking or writing are addressed to a wide audience with different tastes (and who may lack patience) (Aristotle 33-36). Therefore, he said it is necessary to apply several methods of persuasion to appeal to the audience and convince them. These arguments, according to Aristotle, must have a firm basis in the truth and verifiable facts. Therefore, Aristotle defined three methods of persuading listeners to think or do something. As you have read, ethos is considered as almost the most important method of persuasion as it refers to the trustworthiness of the author or speaker. The second, pathos, is an appeal to and consideration of the emotions of the audience. The third method is logos. Aristotle defined this concept as an appeal to reason and an appeal to the soundness of the argument itself. It is based on inductive and deductive reasoning and presented as facts (Aristotle 38-39). 

    Ancient rhetoricians argued that the job of the rhetor was to look for methods of persuasion within the language itself. These methods of persuasion can take several shapes, such as the syllogism or enthymeme, and they can involve various forms of reasoning. Other strategies we traditionally associate with logos include cause and-effect and either/or reasoning, analogies, examples, elaborations, coherent thought, comparisons, deductive and inductive reasoning, and anecdotes, in addition to the deployment of facts or statistics that support the speaker or writer’s position.  

     

    Logos Today 

    Although written in the 3rd quarter of the 4th century BCE, Aristotle’s On Rhetoric presents persuasion methods that are as influential and relevant nowadays as they were many centuries ago in the ancient Greece. As a result, we may notice logos being used in a wide range of everyday situations—from trying to convince a friend to go on a trip with you, asking a professor to extend an assignment deadline, entreating a family member to change his opinion on a political matter, asking a boss to endorse an idea. or persuading a consumer to buy your product.  Not only can logos be used to try to persuade someone to do something, but it also can be used to persuade an audience to consider circumstances differently or to come around to a new way of thinking. Providing sound arguments substantiated with facts will solidify the chances of achieving one of these goals. Therefore, we can talk about logos as a concept that we use or notice on a daily basis in our lives. The most available examples can be seen on everyday media, both online and in print.  

    Commercials are everywhere around us—on TV, on smart devices, or in print form. Logos in commercials is presented in the form of text and advertisers skillfully apply it to prove that their product or service really works and is substantiated by consumer or scientific research to add to the trustworthiness of the message. Therefore, you will most likely notice a specific number or percentage of users that have used the advertised product before and prove the product really works (e.g., 90 % of customers were satisfied with the product). Advertisers will also invoke logos as the highlight of benefits and key facts about the product usually presented by a trustworthy person as seen in the example below. 

    [Insert Image 11.1] 

    Since almost anyone can be a content creator and share information very quickly, being a consumer passively receiving the message, without critical analysis, can be detrimental. Therefore, now more than ever critical thinking and analytical skills are essential. Analyzing and dissecting the content or arguments will help us discover the why and how of the message we are exposed to. An analytical approach to the content will lead us to rational decisions so that we can carefully respond to or challenge content. Consequently, we will be able to decide whether the advertisers’ arguments were effective enough to buy the product or whether these arguments could even make us change our minds about an opinion we previously held. Effective decision making requires the consumers to not just view the content, but to actively participate in analyzing and questioning the soundness of the arguments that are used to present information. 

     

    Broadening the Concept  

    The accuracy of the information presented to us is essential; however, much of what we read and see can be distorted or false. With the ready access and convenience of different social media networks, information spreads quickly and reaches a large audience worldwide. Distorted or false information can confuse an audience with negative results.  

    With logos in mind, it is crucial as both readers and writers, we must be thoughtful, critical thinkers and consider verifiable facts published by the experts in their respective fields rather than a social media post that was distributed by someone who does not have enough knowledge on the topic, especially if it is regarding new phenomenon. Relying on the scientific facts during the pandemic in 2020 would have provided more clarity and guidance on the ways to protect our health, instead of relying on inaccurate information and social media posts that created havoc and confusion. 

    Researching the topic to discover verified facts and relying on the previous research and accurate data, a writer’s arguments will be substantiated, and thus more valid in the eyes of the readers. Relying merely on an argument without specific facts and evidence-based data will not bear much weight when a judge needs to decide whose argument wins or if a consumer needs to decide about purchasing a product. Therefore, before either writing or verbally presenting your argument, it is essential that you do your research and back up your claims by verifiable facts that are proven by the experts in their fields who have published articles in academic journals or industry-specific magazines. 

     

    Logos and Other Concepts 

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    As noted earlier and as part of the triad, logos represents facts and data, pathos represents emotions, and ethos represents credibility of the source or the author. Usually, these three concepts are interconnected and presented as a rhetorical equilateral triangle indicating that all three methods should be balanced in a text.  

     

    [Figure 11.1]                                  

    For example, a balanced application of these three appeals is used in commercials, such as the Old Navy commercial ( Old Navy commercial [youtube.com]) that features Julia Louis Dreyfus (“Old Navy”). We see a famous actress whom we love and trust (ethos) dropping her son off to school. The humorous dialogue among Dreyfus, her son, and the children throughout the commercial makes us laugh. We also see smiling faces of children and upbeat music to set the tone (pathos). Additionally, the school children at the end of the commercial tell her the clothes cost $8 and $4 (logos). 

    Although the balance of these three methods is ideal, more often we are likely to see only two concepts used together in a text. The persuasion method that is most often used with logos is ethos because the well-presented facts and data can establish a trustworthy source of information. Let us look at the images of the toothpaste commercial. In the first and last image, we see a person wearing a white coat in a dental office, and we assume she is a dentist. Therefore, we believe she is experienced enough to recommend what we should use for our dental hygiene (ethos). Next, the same dental expert presents facts (logos) about the effectiveness of the product (“2x stronger protection, strong enamel”). This ad purports to give us expert advice and information on how the product will benefit the consumers. As such, the commercial establishes trustworthiness with the audience and fosters a greater likelihood of the product being purchased.  

    In the digital era, it is important to consider how accurate information and facts are circulated online. With print media, it was not so easy for one person to convey a message to a large audience, but now with access to an internet connection and with only one click, it seems that everybody can be an author and share a message.  

    But what are the messages that are being shared? What is the truth, and how do we know the truth that is being shared is accurate? The answers to these questions are not simple. Everybody who shares a post on social media believes their information is accurate and wants others to see their “truth.” However, we have all been witnesses to “fake news” circulated during the presidential campaign in 2016 and during the global pandemic.  

    For example, we all remember when people were sharing their opinion against COVID-19 vaccines on social media. At that time, anti-vaccination online groups were becoming more vocal about their concerns with the vaccines. These groups, although small in membership, were more strongly advocating against the vaccines and at the same time trying to convince others to avoid the inoculations that could, we know, prevent Covid-19. As reported by a Nature article, these anti-vaccination online groups contributed to the hesitancy of people who had been undecided about taking the vaccine (Johnson).  

    According to Ullah et al. (94), social media and false information that was circulated frightened people. Many who were not experts in public health fields continuously shared their opinions and inaccurate information. However, their followers believed their views on the vaccines were right and began spreading the posts further. These posts were circulated many times worldwide, causing much of a confusion and rage against the scientists who were trying to prove that the vaccines were the only solution to the ongoing crisis. Not just advising against getting vaccinated, some influencers offered their solutions to the COVID-19 crises as well as the medicines that were not recommended by doctors. These “solutions” had often fatal outcomes.  

    A news release from KFF reports that nearly eight out of ten people believed “myths” that were circulated on social media (Palosky). Some of those myths included beliefs that the government was exaggerating the numbers reported of COVID deaths; that vaccines cause many side effects, such as infertility and autism; and that vaccines contain a microchip that can change one’s DNA.  

    Our experience with the pandemic should have taught us to be cautious not only when sharing information online, but to also be critical of the information we read from others. Moreover, circulating information that is not verified and substantiated by science, especially by people who do not have expertise in the relevant fields, can be dangerous and detrimental to the people receiving the message. As Johnson and his team concluded, “distrust in scientific expertise is dangerous” (230). 

     

    Looking Ahead 

    Often, we are asked to conduct research or immerse ourselves in conversations about many important topics. In this process, it is important to first examine existing facts and evidence that are presented to us and later present accurate information to our audience. Only accurate information will be considered a valuable and valid contribution to the conversation or the current research base.  

    As a part of the researching process on the topic, and as you have read elsewhere, one of the first steps in the process involves investigating what other authors have already contributed on the same topic. In this process it is essential to have logos in mind, since a large number of resources are available, and we need to be able to decide which information is accurate. In this process, we will find various sources ranging from academic articles to podcasts and other multimedia. Depending on the topic, and in most circumstances, we will find some sources more reliable than others.  

    For example, we know that Wikipedia.com is a website to which everybody can add information and as such cannot be counted as a most accurate and valid source. On the other hand, as publishing an academic article in a scholarly journal or industry-specific magazine is a rigorous process verified by experts, we customarily trust the source and accuracy of information that we find, and we feel confident to further present the findings to others. After having been immersed into research on a particular topic, you as a credible writer can feel confident enough to present your own ideas and findings and with that contribute to the conversation. You as a researcher build on the existing knowledge based on the topic, possibly encouraging others to pursue the topic further.  

     

    Writing with Logos 

    Try to remember a time when you tried to convince someone to do something. It can be a friend, family member, colleague, or boss. What were the ways you tried to do this? Usually, different techniques would work better with one target audience than the other. For example, with your friends and family members you will use less formal information to get what you want, but with your professors or boss, you will probably need not only correct information, but perhaps figures, charts, and statistics to convince them that your idea will work. When authoring a persuasive essay or a speech, remember to consider logos and the following questions: 

    • Are the arguments well-structured and presented in a logical order? 

    • Are the arguments strong and well-supported? 

    • Have I considered data and scientific facts related to the topic, where relevant? 

    • Is the information I use to support arguments correct and come from experts in their respective fields or from other credible sources? 

    • Do your arguments already include ethos and appropriate use of pathos? How can logos strengthen your argument in addition to these two concepts? 

     

    Logos Activity 

    As you have been reading about logos and how it is used to persuade an audience, it is now your turn to identify this concept and reflect on how the authors are using it to convey a message and have a credible impact on a wide audience.  

    Find three different commercials that you have noticed lately either on social media or TV and try to answer the following questions: 

    • Can you identify logos in these three commercials?  

    • How is logos used to convince you into buying a product or a service advertised? (Statis 

    • How different or same were the ways in which logos was depicted in these three commercials? Which one do you consider to be the most effective? Why? 


     

    Works Cited 

    Aristotle, and George A. Kennedy. Aristotle, On Rhetoric: A Theory of Civic Discourse, Oxford University Press, 2007. 

    Bennetch, Rebekah, et al. Effective Professional Communication: A Rhetorical Approach. University of Saskatchewan, 2021. 

    Johnson, Neil F., et al. “The Online Competition Between Pro-and Anti-Vaccination Views.” Nature, vol. 582, no. 7811, 2020, pp. 230-233. Online Competition between Pro and Anti [ doi: 10.1038]

    “Old Navy First Day of School Style tv commercial ad 2015 HD • Julia Louis Dreyfus advert • Cinema.” YouTube, uploaded by Unique Advertising, 13 August 2015, Old Navy Frist Day of School [youtube.com]

    Palosky, Craig. “COVID-19 Misinformation Is Ubiquitous: 78% of the Public Believes or Is Unsure about at Least One False Statement, and Nearly a Third Believe at Least Four of Eight False Statements Tested.” KFF, 8 Nov. 2021,COVID-10 Misinformation [kff.org]

    Pronamel US. “New Pronamel Active Shield | Strong Enamel Helps Prevent Cavities.” YouTube, uploaded by Pronamel US, 9 February 2023, New Pronamel Active Shield [youtube.com].  

    Ullah, Irfan, et al. “Myths and Conspiracy Theories on Vaccines and COVID-19: Potential Effect on Global Vaccine Refusals.” Vacunas, vol. 22, no. 2, 2021, pp. 93-97. 

     


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