There’s a lot of talk in the animal rights community about advocacy strategies and what’s effective versus what’s counterproductive. Let’s take a look at one way some advocates are shooting themselves in the feet.
Erik Marcus wrote about recent news that people who live near fast “food” restaurants have a 13% higher risk of stroke than people who don’t live near fast “food” restaurants (source). He warned against inferring causation from correlation:
“If every activist in the animal protection movement read and understood the Wikipedia link above [or here], we would collectively be vastly more persuasive and credible.”
Sadly, Marcus doesn’t seem to realize that persuasiveness isn’t strongly correlated OR caused by an understanding of causal relationships. He undermined his own message.
Logicians are no more persuasive to the general human population than marketers. In fact, they’re often less so. Marketers are more persuasive than philosophers.
Let’s look up the Wikipedia entry for persuasion:
Persuasion is a form of social influence. It is the process of guiding people toward the adoption of an idea, attitude, or action by rational and symbolic (though not always logical) means. It is strategy of problem-solving relying on “appeals” rather than coercion. According to Aristotle, “Rhetoric is the art of discovering, in a particular case, the available means of persuasion.”
Methods include appeals to reason as well as appeals to emotion, subliminal messages, coercion, seduction, torture, etc. Persuasion is NOT necessarily about strong logical arguments and in fact, those arguments are only persuasive to a small segment of the population. For example, McDonald’s doesn’t put toys in Happy Meals because it makes McDonald’s appear more credible or reasonable, they do it to persuade children to desire Happy Meals.
If we want to persuade the public to adopt a more animal-friendly lifestyle, we should choose the methods that are most effective, not necessarily the methods that are most logical (though they can go hand-in-hand and there’s no reason to ignore logic). My worry, when I see animal advocates cling to logic at the expense of all else, is that emotion will be swept under the rug. In our movement, emotion is likely THE MOST persuasive method. Sure, we should learn critical thinking skills and logic, but the more important things to learn are skills of persuasion.
Where can animal advocates learn about persuasion? Here are some options:
- Join Toastmasters - learn about public speaking and leadership at a low cost
- Take a class in marketing or sales
- Read Influence - learn about the 6 Principles of Persuasion
- Read How to Make Friends and Influence People
- Do your own studies and analysis by surveying friends and family members. Ask them point-blank what it would take to get them to go vegan. Or show them three videos and ask, “which is more effective?” Do an online survey or quiz. Compile the data and analyze it.
- Got more ideas yourself? Please leave them in the comments below…