Manipulating Emotions: Value-Based Reasoning and Emotive Language

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21 Citations (Scopus)


There are emotively powerful words that can modify our judgment, arouse our emotions, and influence our decisions. The purpose of this paper is to provide instruments for analyzing the structure of the reasoning underlying the inferences that they trigger, in order to investigate their reasonableness conditions and their persuasive effect. The analysis of the mechanism of persuasion triggered by such words involves the complex systematic relationship between values, decisions, and emotions, and the reasoning mechanisms that have been investigated under the label of “heuristics.” On the one hand, arguing using ethical words is shown to sometimes involve value-based practical reasoning grounded on evaluative classifications stemming from hierarchies of values and maxims of experience. On the other hand, ethical words provide representations bound to the interlocutor's experiences and judgments, which trigger specific emotions yielding a particular reaction. This chain of judgments and reactions and the potential fallaciousness thereof can be inquired into by examining the relationship between the heuristic processes of reasoning and the more complex argumentative structure that the use of such words involves. The analysis of the 2013 Italian political campaign and the ad hominem arguments used by the political candidates shows the different strategies and counterstrategies for the manipulation of emotions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-122
Number of pages20
JournalArgumentation And Advocacy
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • ad hominem
  • argumentation schemes
  • emotions
  • emotive words
  • heuristics
  • persuasion
  • rhetorical strategies
  • value-based reasoning


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