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Suasive speech: A stronger affective defense of rhetoric and the politics of cognitive poetics

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A review of empirical data on involuntary affective responses to ‘rhetorical’ speech establishes the need to reexamine Jean-Jacques Rousseau's so-called ‘Weak Defense of Rhetoric,’ which considers rhetorical tropes to be dangerous because they seduce the body. Evaluating empirical findings also challenges Richard Lanham's ‘Strong Defense,’ which dismisses Rousseau and rejects any condemnation of ‘rhetorical speech’ in asserting that all utterances are already rhetorical insofar as they are contextual and selective. Ultimately, experimental psychology and neuroscience studies give good reason to adopt a new, Stronger Affective Defense of Rhetoric, one that prioritises the body and its degrees of affectability, embracing Rousseau's idea that democratic deliberation must be concerned with how the body is intimately and often automatically moved by rhetorical speech.

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... Later developments of RST include the Linguistic Discourse Model and Discourse Grammar (Prüst, Scha, and van den Berg, 1994;Scha and Polanyi, 1988;Polanyi et al., 2004as cited in Zeevat, 2011 with the focus on grammar, and Segmented Discourse Representation Theory (Lascarides and Asher, 1993;Lascarides, 2003, 2013), which uses RRs to model the semantics/pragmatics interface. 9 For a more general discussion of rhetoric in communication see Nida (1990), and for an analysis of rhetoric in neuroscience literature see Gruber (2016). ...
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Recent studies provide promising methodological advances in the use of pupillometry as on-line measurement of cognitive processes and show that visual attention allocation, mind-wandering, mental imagery, and even rhyme expectations can influence the size of the human pupil.
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When does the human language processor take on semantic commitments? This question has two parts: (1) for what class of semantic decisions will the processor make a decision rather than leaving the developing interpretation vague or unspecified?; and (2) at what point during sentence analysis will a decision be made if insufficient information is available to guarantee an accurate decision? Neither question has been answered (or even posed in a fully explicit general form) in the psycholinguistic literature. We recorded readers' eye movements in a study designed to explore these questions. The data indicated that delaying the presentation of disambiguating information until after the occurrence of an ambiguous target lengthened fixation times for words with multiple meanings (the concrete vs. abstract meaning of ball, ring), but not for words with multiple senses (the concrete vs. abstract sense of library, poem). This finding is taken as initial support for the view that semantic commitments are minimized, occurring only when mutually incompatible choices are presented by the grammar or when forced by the need to maintain consistency between the interpretation of the current phrase and any already processed contextual material. However, decisions forced by either of these circumstances occur immediately with associated effects appearing in the eye movement record long before the end of the sentence.
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According to a two-step account of the mere-exposure effect, repeated exposure leads to the subjective feeling of perceptual fluency, which in turn influences liking. If so, perceptual fluency manipulated by means other than repetition should influence liking. In three experiments, effects of perceptual fluency on affective judgments were examined. In Experiment 1, higher perceptual fluency was achieved by presenting a matching rather than nonmatching prime before showing a target picture. Participants judged targets as prettier if preceded by a matching rather than nonmatching prime. In Experi- ment 2, perceptual fluency was manipulated by figure-ground contrast. Stimuli were judged as more pretty, and less ugly, the higher the con- trast. In Experiment 3, perceptual fluency was manipulated by presen- tation duration. Stimuli shown for a longer duration were liked more, and disliked less. We conclude (a) that perceptual fluency increases liking and (b) that the experience of fluency is affectively positive, and hence attributed to positive but not to negative features, as reflected in a differential impact on positive and negative judgments. 0
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This paper presents a neuroscientific study of aesthetic judgments on written texts. In an fMRI experiment participants read a number of proverbs without explicitly evaluating them. In a post-scan rating they rated each item for familiarity and beauty. These individual ratings were correlated with the functional data to investigate the neural correlates of implicit aesthetic judgments. We identified clusters in which BOLD activity was correlated with individual post-scan beauty ratings. This indicates that some spontaneous aesthetic evaluation takes place during reading, even if not required by the task. Positive correlations were found in the ventral striatum and in medial prefrontal cortex, likely reflecting the rewarding nature of sentences that are aesthetically pleasing. On the contrary, negative correlations were observed in the classic left frontotemporal reading network. Midline structures and bilateral temporo-parietal regions correlated positively with familiarity, suggesting a shift from the task-network towards the default network with increasing familiarity.
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Rhetoric-composition's recurring captivation with emergent brain research is sustained not only by the persuasive visual rhetoric of neuroscientific research but also by the conceptual and terministic overlaps that exist between the fields of rhetoric-composition and neuroscience. While these overlaps suggest ways research in brain science can usefully contribute to work in our field, they also instigate seductively simple “solutions” to the “problem” of epistemological uncertainty. Our neurorhetorical methodology preempts the reductive uptake of neuroscientific research while simultaneously motivating a cross-disciplinary reciprocity conducive to the goals of rhetorical inquiry and responsible writing pedagogy.
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A quantitative, coordinate-based meta-analysis combined data from 354 participants across 22 fMRI studies and one positron emission tomography (PET) study to identify the differences in neural correlates of figurative and literal language processing, and to investigate the role of the right hemisphere (RH) in figurative language processing. Studies that reported peak activations in standard space contrasting figurative vs. literal language processing at whole brain level in healthy adults were included. The left and right IFG, large parts of the left temporal lobe, the bilateral medial frontal gyri (medFG) and an area around the left amygdala emerged for figurative language processing across studies. Conditions requiring exclusively literal language processing did not activate any selective regions in most of the cases, but if so they activated the cuneus/precuneus, right MFG and the right IPL. No general RH advantage for metaphor processing could be found. On the contrary, significant clusters of activation for metaphor conditions were mostly lateralized to the left hemisphere (LH). Subgroup comparisons between experiments on metaphors, idioms, and irony/sarcasm revealed shared activations in left frontotemporal regions for idiom and metaphor processing. Irony/sarcasm processing was correlated with activations in midline structures such as the medFG, ACC and cuneus/precuneus. To test the graded salience hypothesis (GSH, Giora, 1997), novel metaphors were contrasted against conventional metaphors. In line with the GSH, RH involvement was found for novel metaphors only. Here we show that more analytic, semantic processes are involved in metaphor comprehension, whereas irony/sarcasm comprehension involves theory of mind processes.
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This article reviews research examining the fading affect bias (FAB): The finding that the intensity of affect associated with negative autobiographical memories fades faster than affect associated with positive autobiographical memories. The FAB is a robust effect in autobiographical memory that has been replicated using a variety of methods and populations. The FAB is linked to both cognitive and social processes that support a positive view of the self. Accordingly, we speculate that one function of the FAB may be to induce individuals to be positive and action-oriented so that they may better face and master life challenges. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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It is hard to imagine a field as different from sociology as neuroscience. The differences in theory, method, tradition, and practice could readily breed antagonism between any two fields. However, it is just because of these differences that neuroscience has been able to present important findings about covert brain processes that can expand sociological theory. Traditionally, sociological social psychology has focused on self-consciousness and language as primary mechanisms of human adaptation. This focus might be appropriate to the cerebral image of the human animal, but neuroscience has produced evidence that emotional capacities underlie the intelligence implied by this image and indeed make it possible (Carter and Pasqualini 2004; Damasio 1994).
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Darwin’s (1871) observation that evolution has produced in us certain emotions responding to right and wrong conduct that lack any obvious basis in individual utility is a useful springboard from which to clarify the role of emotion in moral judgment. The problem is whether a certain class of moral judgments is “constituted” or “driven by” emotion (Greene 2008, p. 108) or merely correlated with emotion while being generated by unconscious computations (e.g., Huebner et al. 2008). With one exception, all of the “personal” vignettes devised by Greene and colleagues (2001, 2004) and subsequently used by other researchers (e.g., Koenigs et al. 2007) in their fMRI and behavioral studies of emotional engagement in moral judgment involve violent crimes or torts. These studies thus do much more than highlight the role of emotion in moral judgment; they also support the classical rationalist thesis that moral rules are engraved in the mind.
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Psychophysiological and neuroscience studies of emotional processing undertaken by investigators at the University of Florida Laboratory of the Center for the Study of Emotion and Attention (CSEA) are reviewed, with a focus on reflex reactions, neural structures and functional circuits that mediate emotional expression. The theoretical view shared among the investigators is that expressed emotions are founded on motivational circuits in the brain that developed early in evolutionary history to ensure the survival of individuals and their progeny. These circuits react to appetitive and aversive environmental and memorial cues, mediating appetitive and defensive reflexes that tune sensory systems and mobilize the organism for action and underly negative and positive affects. The research reviewed here assesses the reflex physiology of emotion, both autonomic and somatic, studying affects evoked in picture perception, memory imagery, and in the context of tangible reward and punishment, and using the electroencephalograph (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), explores the brain's motivational circuits that determine human emotion.
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Saving Persuasion: A Defense of Rhetoric and Judgment. By Bryan Garsten. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. 290p. $45.00. Bryan Garsten's Saving Persuasion is an engaging and original work of wide appeal. Garsten analyzes the formation of an antirhetorical tradition in modern political thought, investigates its rival classical tradition of rhetoric and judgment, and explores the promise that a politics of persuasion offers contemporary democratic societies.