Evaluating Arguments from the Reaction of the Audience

Thinking and Reasoning, Forthcoming

23 Pages Posted: 27 Feb 2012  

Hugo Mercier

University of Neuchatel

Brent Strickland

Yale University - Department of Psychology

Date Written: February 27, 2012

Abstract

In studying how lay people evaluate arguments, psychologists have typically focused on logical form and content. This emphasis has masked an important yet under appreciated aspect of every day argument evaluation: social cues to argument strength. Here, we focus on the ways in which observers evaluate arguments by the reaction they evoke in an audience. This type of evaluation is likely to occur either when people are not privy to the content of the arguments or when they are not expert enough to appropriately evaluate it. Four experiments explore cues that participants might take into account in evaluating arguments from the reaction of the audience. They demonstrate that participants can use audience motivation, expertise and size as clues to argument quality. By contrast, we find no evidence that participants take audience diversity into account.

Keywords: argument evaluation, argumentation, audience, social clues

Suggested Citation

Mercier, Hugo and Strickland, Brent, Evaluating Arguments from the Reaction of the Audience (February 27, 2012). Thinking and Reasoning, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2011747

Hugo Mercier (Contact Author)

University of Neuchatel ( email )

Espace Louis Agassiz 1
Neuch√Ętel, 2000
Switzerland

Brent Strickland

Yale University - Department of Psychology ( email )

P.O. Box 208205
New Haven, CT 06520-8205
United States

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