Lecture 5: Belief & Evidence


Note the connection between previous lectures up to today

LEC01: Rhetoric, Power of Language

LEC02: Two Processes of Communication, Rhetorical Situation

LEC03: Modes of Persuasion and Fallacies

LEC04: Power of Language, Propaganda, Spin

A legacy of excellence and leadership spanning every human endeavor

Integration of three types of readings and modes of persuasion

Notes on UofT commercial <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylEpzyssJEU>

Logos - statistics, achievements

Pathos - people talking about personal experiences, music

Ethos - alumni with reputation

Dominant Reading -

  • The institution itself has authority in the field.
  • Emphasizes the trustworthiness of institution.
  • Show the diversity.
  • We like dominant reading, because we're here.

Negotiated Reading -

  • They were selective on people in the video.
  • Rarely mention from a student point of view - only professors.

Oppositional Reading -

  • UofT mostly cares about its graduate students with higher chances in achieving such status.
  • Focus was on a graduate programs (no teachers, but only researchers).
  • A lot seems to be hidden (eg. mental health, deregulated programs, international student fees, large fasts in rooms).
  • There's no encouragement to resist.


"...is a representation of what we take to be reality"

- James Alcock

Persuasion must contend with belief


.....guides actions

.....provides meaning

.....offers relief

.....organizes social behavior (we share beliefs with others,)

*Beliefs are not equal - some are convictional

"Seeing is believing"

Example discussed in class - Why is the Earth round?

  • we've been told that it's round
  • scientifically proven
  • seen from plane

Beliefs and illusions

Our brains constructs the reality based on our beliefs, even on illusions.


1. Table top illusion

2. Checker Shadow Illusion

3. Impossible Triangle

4. Harvest moon

Causality and Correlation

  • Faulty memories can be a drawback
  • Memory is a reconstruction
  • Belief builds up depending on Causality and Correlation

Example: The Lightbulb experiment (Hawthorne Effect)

A group of workers were placed in a room with a bright light and had been observed by investigators for a specific period of time. The workers were a lot more productive than usual, and the researchers came to a conclusion that bright light increases productivity. But when they ran the experiment once again, but with a low lighting, the productivity was still higher than usual. Then researchers realized that it's not the lightning that boosts productivity, but the fact that the workers have been observed,

- We believe in things that we cannot prove.

- Our perceptions are often incorrect.

- We struggle with correlation.

The Scientific Method

History of this method is uncertain, but we tend to thing that Muslim scholar al-Haytham developed a series of steps -

  1. Observation of natural world.
  2. Defining a problem.
  3. Articulating a hypothesis.
  4. Testing hypothesis through experiments.
  5. Analyzing and interpreting results.
  6. Sharing findings.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) developed the concept further by establishing the following:

  • Empirical Observations
  • Systematic Experimental Evidence
  • Analyzing Experimental Evidence
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Results of Inductive Reasoning do not end up in right or wrong, but strong or weak.

Then Rene Descartes Bacon (1596-1650) pushes to Deductive reasoning, which one is more right or wrong, not strong or weak.

End result -

The Scientific Method -

  1. Make Observations
  2. Formulate a Hypothesis
  3. Design and perform Experiments
  4. Accept or change the hypothesis
  5. Sharing findings (allow for replication! - critical)

* To remember - OHEAS

Replication in studies is critical - has to be transparent so other researchers can share the results.

Scientific Method is a means to counter the Cognitive Bias

Bottom-line - we're soaking in the pool of biases

Critical Thinking -

  1. Understand that we can all be fooled
  2. Be suspicious of your institutions
  3. Beware Fundamental Attribution Error
  4. Don't rely on single source of information
  5. Beware of over-interpreting correlations


Key ideas -

  • Integration of 3 Modes of Persuasion and 3 Types of Readings
  • Belief
  • Illusions
  • Causality and Correlation
  • Faulty memories
  • Scientific Method
  • Inductive Reasoning
  • Deductive Reasoning
  • Cognitive Biases
  • Critical Thinking

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