Cognitive Biases and the Strength of Political Arguments

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Amidst a time when political parties and opponents are attempting to influence the opinions of American voters in attempt to occupy the presidency and ultimately gain political control, extreme importance is placed on how each side’s argument must be constructed in order to sway voters’ support. As the majority of the voting constituency is seemingly falling short of thorough knowledge of issues addressed by political candidates, the pure persuasiveness of each side’s arguments have become increasingly more important to furthering their goals. Arceneaux’s article delves into the idea of how cognitive bias and presentation of an argument play an exceedingly large role in forming and often changing the ideas of the addressed audience. Though this idea of partisan rhetorical manipulation may seem off-putting due to the fact that the American democratic model features openly competing parties, Arceneaux notes that his studies indicate “that stronger arguments do a better job of moving opinion in the direction advocated by the message, even in competitive situations” (271). Arceneaux’s reasoning rests on the influence of cognitive biases on human decision making, where built-in predispositions affect and shape argument strength. This notion is observed through the cognitive bias of loss aversion as “individuals are predisposed to accept the recommendations of political arguments when they emphasize avoiding losses rather than realizing gains” (272). In his article, Arceneaux attempts to examine the accuracy and strength of argument persuasion as activated by the cognitive bias of loss aversion through two controlled studies. The first included two hundred college students and ten diverse individuals drawn from the surrounding community, and the second was conducted through the Mechanical Turk panel, a diverse online panel used primarily for conducting research used in political and psychological experiments. In both studies, Arceneaux uses mock...
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