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Morality, Trust, and Illusion: Ethos as Relationship

46 Pages Posted: 18 Sep 2012 Last revised: 11 Oct 2012

Melissa Weresh

Drake University - Law School

Date Written: August 1, 2012


Ethos as an element of persuasion is based on source credibility. Many scholars focus on ethos in terms of source characteristic attributes – whether the advocate manifests intelligence, character, and good will. I argue that there is an additional component of ethos manifested by the relationship the advocate forms with her audience, the source relational attributes. This relationship may be influenced by logos and pathos, but it persuades on an ethos level. This article explores research by legal scholars and cognitive psychologists to support the premise that the relationship between advocate and audience is a manifestation of ethos, and that the relationship has persuasive import. It then examines organizational and stylistic devices advocates may employ to establish and maintain ethos, both in terms of source characteristic and relational attributes. Finally, the article concludes with an examination of potential criticisms associated with manipulation of ethos in legal writing.

Keywords: ethos, rhetoric, persuasion, advocate, credibility, syllogism, inoculation theory, priming, trope, metaphor, humor, logos, pathos

Suggested Citation

Weresh, Melissa, Morality, Trust, and Illusion: Ethos as Relationship (August 1, 2012). Legal Communication & Rhetoric: JALWD, Vol. 9, p. 229, Fall 2012; Drake University Law School Research Paper No. 12-18. Available at SSRN:

Melissa Weresh (Contact Author)

Drake University - Law School ( email )

27th & Carpenter Sts.
Des Moines, IA 50311
United States

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