Pathos or the emotional appeal, means to persuade an audience by appealing to their emotions.
Authors use pathos to invoke sympathy from an audience; to make the audience feel what what the author wants them to feel. A common use of pathos would be to draw pity from an audience. Another use of pathos would be to inspire anger from an audience; perhaps in order to prompt action. Pathos is the Greek word for both “suffering” and “experience.” The words empathy and pathetic are derived from pathos.
Pathos can be developed by using meaningful language, emotional tone, emotion evoking examples, stories of emotional events, and implied meanings.
Types of Emotional Appeals
Appealing to sadness - Sad anecdotes, such as those involving death (especially of those who are powerless i.e, children), severe injury or unjust treatment have the power to move audiences in huge ways. These types of stories are especially powerful if the audience can somehow identify with the victim involved in the anecdote. For example, if a presenter used the story of someone's child dying, the notion that whatever tragedy befell that child - could in fact happen to the children of audience members could move an audience to take action immediately, possibly in the form of signing a petition or electing a new sheriff for example.
Appealing to Anger - Anger many times naturally foments after tragedies or large events that impact entire populations. In many cases, presenters and writers do not have to inspire anger, but simply appeal to it, and guide it towards the goal presented in the argument. In cases where anger is not already inspired, reciting tragic events, such as those mentioned above, but then assigning a particular blame to the tragedy or assigning a motive as well, can easily transform sadness into outrage.
Appealing to a sense of danger or fear - Danger comes in many forms, and there is a long history regarding its use as a rhetorical tool. In ancient roman times, Julius Caesar used the fear of the Gauls as a pretext for their invasion (they themselves were previously invaded by the Gauls). Another example can be found in automobile commercials, which stress their safety features, stressing that the driver and passengers would be safe in the event something went wrong.
Appealing to Happiness and Enthusiasm - While happiness may not seem as strong of an emotion as sadness or anger, it too can be used to help a presenter make a case to an audience. A good example of this can be found in the presentations of motivational speakers. Motivational speakers commonly use success stories of others to help their audience realize that their goals are in fact obtainable. One particular example of this could come in the form of a speech to rehabilitating drug addicts. The speaker in this case would bring up the story of someone who turned their life around after quitting their addiction, and is today a much happier person than they were as a drug addict. Multi-level marketers will also typically use these kinds of stories in order to sell their clients a dream of future success.
Another way of using happiness and enthusiasm in an appeal to pathos is to simply recount happy and touching anecdotes. Recounting these anecdotes will naturally associate them with the argument at hand, as well as the speaker, giving the audience the impression that a speaker is a warm-hearted and caring person.
Pathos in Academic Writing
Appealing to your readers emotion when writing for an academic purpose may at first seem counter-intuitive, given the fact that academia is supposed to be governed by cold hard logic (logos). However, emotional appeals can cause any reader, whether a professor conducting a peer review, or a professor grading a paper, to reconsider their original opinion, and look closely into the logic provided in an argument, rather than brushing it aside all together.
With this being said, the appeal to pathos should not be exaggerated in academic writing, as the reader is likely approach claims with more skepticism than any normal audience. This is because those involved with reviewing papers likely see techniques like this used on a regular basis, and can be quick to determine whether or not it is relevant to the case being presented in the paper. In any case, one should not attempt to be disingenuous when presenting emotionally charged stories, especially those related to tragic events, or else the writer risks discrediting his/her argument all together.
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