Cultural differences in the perceptions of strong and weak arguments

The process of arbitration requires human reasoning and decision-making. Parties evaluate the evidence that is available to them and decide how to best present their case. Arbitrators aim to resolve a dispute by weighing the evidence and the legal arguments that are presented by each side. Researchers have underlined the importance of strong evidence in legal deliberations, but what exactly characterizes strong arguments? This chapter addresses this question as a first point. The characteristics of arbitrators, such as age, gender, and cultural background, may affect how arbitrators process arguments. Yet given the aim of arbitration to be an objective and neutral process, it is important to consider how such characteristics may impact the ultimate outcome of a case. This chapter examines the last of these characteristics, namely the role of culture in this decision-making process. More precisely, this chapter reviews the research evidence on how members of different cultures evaluate strong and weak arguments.

  • Hornikx, J.  (2017). Cultural differences in the perceptions of strong and weak arguments. In T. Cole (ed.), The role of psychology in international arbitration (pp. 72-92). Alphen aan den Rijn: Wolters Kluwer. [link]

An experimental investigation of the role of distraction and dilution

PaglieriStudies on persuasive arguments have generally found that claims supported by high-quality evidence are better accepted than claims supported by low-quality evidence. However, an experiment by Hoeken and Hustinx (2007) demonstrated that this effect was only observed in short texts (a claim with evidence), but not in longer texts (where information unrelated to the evidence was added at the end of the text). The present experiment was conducted to examine whether this effect of text length could be explained by distraction (the additional text at the end distracts the reader) or by dilution (the additional text makes the fragment less diagnostic for claim evaluation). Participants (N = 629) read two texts with a claim supported by high-quality or low-quality (anecdotal, statistical, or expert) evidence. The text was presented in one of the three versions: (1) short, (2) long with additional information at the end, or (3) new in comparison to Hoeken and Hustinx (2007) – long with additional information at the start. The data found support for the distraction explanation. An effect of evidence quality on claim acceptance was observed in two conditions: in the short text, and in the longer text with additional information at the start. The effect of evidence quality was not found in the longer text with additional information at the end.

  • Hornikx, J. (2016). Evidence quality variations and claim acceptance: An experimental investigation of the role of distraction and dilution. Paglieri, F., Bonelli, L., & Felletti, S. (eds.), The psychology of argument: Cognitive approaches to argumentation and persuasion (pp. 211-222). London: College Publications. [paper book]

A normative framework for argument quality: Argumentation schemes with a Bayesian foundation

syntheseIn this paper, it is argued that the most fruitful approach to developing normative models of argument quality is one that combines the argumentation scheme approach with Bayesian argumentation. Three sample argumentation schemes from the literature are discussed: the argument from sign, the argument from expert opinion, and the appeal to popular opinion. Limitations of the scheme-based treatment of these argument forms are identified and it is shown how a Bayesian perspective may help to overcome these. At the same time, the contributions of the standard scheme-based approach are highlighted, and it is argued that only a combination of the insights of different traditions will yield a complete normative theory of argument quality.

  • Hahn, U., & Hornikx, J. (2016). A normative framework for argument quality: Argumentation schemes with a Bayesian foundation. Synthese, 193 (6), 1833-1873. [link]

Een kritische analyse van de manipulatie van argumentkwaliteit in reclameonderzoek

demachtvantaalOver het algemeen raken mensen meer overtuigd door sterke dan door zwakke argumenten. In de empirische literatuur bestaan er echter inconsistente bevindingen voor het effect van argumentkwaliteit. In dit paper wordt onderzocht of de manipulatie van argumentkwaliteit een verklaring kan bieden voor deze tegenstrijdige bevindingen. Een analyse van dergelijke manipulaties in 32 uitgevoerde empirische onderzoeken leidt tot twee belangrijke inzichten. Ten eerste manipuleren onderzoekers voornamelijk pragmatische argumentatie, waarbij het standpunt over de wenselijkheid van de aanschaf van een product wordt ondersteund door te verwijzen naar de wenselijke gevolgen van het gebruik van dat product. Ten tweede blijkt de wijze van manipulatie sterk uiteen te lopen: bij de zwakke argumenten wordt soms naar minder wenselijke gevolgen verwezen, in andere gevallen naar neutrale gevolgen (waardoor er eigenlijk geen sprake is van een argument), en soms zelfs naar onwenselijke gevolgen (waardoor er geen sprake is van een zwak pro-argument maar van een tegenargument). Deze verschillende manieren waarop argumentkwaliteit in de 32 onderzochte studies gemanipuleerd werd, zouden een verklaring kunnen bieden voor de soms tegenstrijdige bevindingen in onderzoek naar argumentkwaliteit.

  • Weerman, A., Hoeken, H., & Hornikx, J. (2016). Een kritische analyse van de manipulatie van argumentkwaliteit in reclameonderzoek. In D. Van de Mieroop, L. Buysse, R. Coesemans, & P. Gillaerts (Red.),  De macht van de taal: Taalbeheersingsonderzoek in Nederland en Vlaanderen (pp. 309-321). Leuven: Acco. [link]

Het effect van evidentiekwaliteit op de beoordeling van standpunten: de rol van toegevoegde tekst

TvT coverClaims supported by high-quality evidence have been found to be more persuasive than claims supported by low-quality evidence. However, Hoeken and Hustinx (2007) showed that this effect was only observed in short texts (a claim with evidence), but not in longer texts (where information unrelated to the evidence was added at the end of the text). The current experiment was conducted to examine whether this effect of text length could be explained by distraction (the additional text at the end distracts the reader) or by dilution (the additional text makes the fragment less diagnostic for claim evaluation). Participants (N = 629) read two texts with high/low-quality evidence. The text was presented in three versions: short, long with additional information at the end, or – new in comparison to Hoeken and Hustinx (2007) – long with additional information at the start. The data found support for the distraction explanation: an effect of evidence quality on persuasiveness was observed in the short text, and in the longer text with additional information at the start, but not in the longer text with additional information at the end.

  • Hornikx, J. (2014). Het effect van evidentiekwaliteit op de beoordeling van standpunten: de rol van toegevoegde tekst. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 36 (1), 107-125 [link].

Argumentatieschema’s

TvT coverThe concept of argumentation schemes plays an important role in identifying real-life argumentation, and in assessing the quality of this argumentation by virtue of critical questions. Argumentation schemes have played a central role within argumentation theory since the second half of the last century. This special issue addresses two general topics related to argumentation schemes. In the first place, some papers tackle the question how argumentation schemes should be classified into a framework, and how they work together in argumentative discourse. In the second place, other papers address the question how language users employ criteria to evaluate argumentation.

  • Hornikx, J., & Jansen, H. (2014). Argumentatieschema’s [themanummer Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing]. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University [link].

Hedendaags theoretisch en empirisch onderzoek naar argumentatieschema’s

TvT coverThe concept of argumentation schemes plays an important role in identifying real-life argumentation, and in assessing the quality of this argumentation by virtue of critical questions. Argumentation schemes have played a central role within argumentation theory since the second half of the last century. This special issue addresses two general topics related to argumentation schemes. In the first place, some papers tackle the question how argumentation schemes should be classified into a framework, and how they work together in argumentative discourse. In the second place, other papers address the question how language users employ criteria to evaluate argumentation.

  • Jansen, H., & Hornikx, J. (2014). Hedendaags theoretisch en empirisch onderzoek naar argumentatieschema’s. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 36 (1), 1-9 [link].

Een Bayesiaans perspectief op argumentkwaliteit: het ad populum-argument onder de loep

tvtOm mensen mee te krijgen met een standpunt zijn overtuigende argumenten belangrijk. Sociaal-psychologische onderzoeken laten zien dat sommige argumenten overtuigender zijn dan andere, maar is het onduidelijk welke kenmerken van argumenten dat verschil verklaren. In de zoektocht naar een theorie over argumentkwaliteit bekijkt deze bijdrage eerst enkele perspectieven op argumentkwaliteit. Studies uit de cognitieve psychologie hebben zich wel verdiept in kenmerken die de kwaliteit van argumenten bepalen, maar dit perspectief stuit op bezwaren. Argumentatieschema’s met kritische vragen hebben het meest bevredigende perspectief geboden voor kenmerken van argumentkwaliteit. Toch heeft ook dit perspectief enkele nadelen. Zo is het onduidelijk wat de normatieve basis is om argumentkwaliteit te laten afhangen van de kritische vragen. Vervolgens wordt betoogd dat een Bayesiaans perspectief een waardevol vertrekpunt kan zijn voor het ontwikkelen van een theorie over argumentkwaliteit. Een Bayesiaans perspectief op het ad populum-argument laat de potentie van deze aanpak zien: nieuwe kritische vragen, die onderling samenhangen, blijken relevant voor de kwaliteit van een ad populum-argument. Samen met bestaande inzichten over argumentatieschema’s kan dit perspectief helpen om een theorie over argumentkwaliteit te ontwikkelen.

  • Hornikx, J. (2013). Een Bayesiaans perspectief op argumentkwaliteit: het ad populum-argument onder de loep. Tijdschrift voor Taalbeheersing, 35 (2), 128-143. [link]

Germans are not sensitive to the quality of statistical evidence

JOCC coverFor a long time, research in communication and argumentation has investigated which kinds of evidence are most effective in changing people’s beliefs in descriptive claims. For each type of evidence, such as statistical or expert evidence, high-quality and low-quality variants exist, depending on the extent to which evidence respects norms for strong argumentation. Studies have shown that participants are sensitive to such quality variations in some, but not in all, cultures. This paper expands such work by comparing the persuasiveness of high- and low-quality statistical and expert evidence for participants from two geographically close cultures, the Dutch and the German. Study 1, in which participants (N = 150) judge a number of claims with evidence, underscores earlier findings that high-quality is more persuasive than low-quality evidence for the Dutch, and – surprisingly – also shows that this is less the case for the Germans, in particular for statistical evidence. Study 2 with German participants (N = 64) shows again they are not sensitive to the quality of statistical evidence, and rules out that this finding can be attributed to their understanding of the rules of generalization. Together, findings in this paper underline the need to empirically investigate what norms people from different cultures have for high-quality evidence, and to what extent these norms matter for persuasive success.

  • Hornikx, J., & Haar, M. ter (2013). Evidence quality and persuasiveness: Germans are not sensitive to the quality of statistical evidence. Journal of Cognition and Culture, 13 (5), 483-501. [linkpdf upon request]

Reasoning and argumentation

Although argumentation plays an essential role in our lives, there is no integrated area of research on the psychology of argumentation. Instead research on argumentation is conducted in a number of separate research communities that are spread across disciplines and have only limited interaction. Cognitive psychological research on argumentation has focused mostly on argument as a reason, and argument as structured sequence of reasons and claims. A third meaning of argument has been neglected: argument as a social exchange. All meanings are integral to a complete understanding of human reasoning and cognition. In this special issue, we present work that is relevant to all these three meanings of argument. The papers by Heit and Rotello (on the effect of argument length on inductive reasoning), by Harris, Hsu and Madsen (on a Bayesian test of the ad Hominem fallacy), and by Thompson and Evans (on belief bias in informal reasoning tasks) focus on arguments as reasons. By contrast, the contributions by Van Eemeren, Garssen, and Meuffels (on the reasonableness of the disguised abusive ad hominem fallacy), by Hoeken, Timmers, and Schellens (on argument quality and convincing arguments), by Mercier and Strickland (on how arguments can be evaluated from audience reactions), and by Bonnefon (on generating consequential arguments) deal intrinsically with situations where there are multiple protagonists in a communicative exchange. By including these papers, by researchers from a range of theoretical backgrounds, this special issue underlines the breadth of argumentation research as well as stresses opportunities for mutual awareness and integration.

  • Hahn, U., & Hornikx, J. (2012). Reasoning and argumentation [A special issue of Thinking and Reasoning]. London: Psychology Press. [link]