Persuasive Language how is language used in advertisements to manipulate buyers?

Essential Question

How does language shape knowledge?



Group Brainstorming/Notes


Some words have not only a descriptive meaning, but also emotive meaning. Emotive meaning is the aura of favorable or unfavorable feeling that hovers around a word. "guilty” has a negative connotation and “pleasure” has a positive connotation. That’s why people relate to guilty as a bad thing and pleasure as a good thing. They are in favor for pleasure not in favor of being guilty. Euphemism is a type of emotive meaning and in this advertisement the bold phrase “guilty pleasure” is an example of it. This phrase serves to hide the reality of chips being unhealthy and making it acceptable to eat chips that are popped because they aren’t unhealthy and undelicious. Words like "unhealthy" and "undelicious" have a negative connotation but in context it's positive because its saying that pop chips are healthy and delicious because they don't bake or fry them.

'weasel words'

  • Definition of Weasel Words: Words that qualify a seemingly clear and precise statement and make it vague or ambiguous.
  • Ex) Less guilty, More pleasure. It is a statement dictated in a (seemingly) clear and precise way but yet it is made ambiguous.(Where you can interpret it in another way- leaves an “escape route”)
  • Ex) You’ve got delicious snack with just 100 calories, 3g of fat and 17+ chips per single serve bag. (The + sign conveys that you're going to receive a lot of chips per single bag. Where it is stated clearly but yet again, it is intentionally misleading.)
  • So “+ and Less/More” is just a weasel word that this company is utilizing to say that they are getting more chips per bag and they can eat more for a less calorie consumption.

revealing and concealing

  • The idea of “revealing and concealing” is a tactic used in advertising to be truthful in the ad without truly allowing the consumer to comprehend the downsides
  • An example in a TV ad would be the way medication ads very quickly list side effects so consumers don't have time to comprehend the downsides of the product
  • In this case, the other nutrition facts are written in small sized font. The ad states that for 100 calories, you can eat more Popchips. However, more Popchips also yield more carbs, less protein, and less fiber. Those aren't preferable nutrition facts so they are concealed by small font.

Connection to Reason

  • Equivocation: ambivalent language
  • Ex.) “Less guilty, more pleasure” has an emphasis on health and “guilty pleasure” has the connotation that this is a treat, something that tastes good
  • Ex.) “Crunch the numbers” - as in do the math or crunch as it relates to chips
  • False analogy: assuming that because two things are alike in some respects they are alike in others
  • Ex.) Revealing and concealing assumes that the buyer will do this by assuming that because the chips are healthier in some ways, they will be better in others as well
  • Ad ignorantiam: reasoning based off of information that is not given
  • Ex.) Because the bad parts of the nutrition facts are not clearly shown, we as buyers assume the chips are healthy

Progress Journal

  • Name: Reshmi Patel
  • Group Members: Rhea, Seong, Patrick
  • Badge Leader: Reshmi
  • Date: Feb 23 - Mar 5
  • Badge Title: WOK Badge: Language
  • Project Title: Persuasive Language: How is Language Used in Advertisements to Manipulate Buyers?

2/23/17. Today, after completing presentations for the last badge project, we took the quizzes for our third Way of Knowing, Language. Since we didn’t have time to do much more than complete presentations and take the quizzes in class today, I am going to use this journal entry to discuss a little about what I learned while studying reason over the weekend. While reading the chapter, I discovered that there were several aspects of language that I had not previously considered. For example, I had not considered the implications of the fact that language must be intended. This means that unintended body language does not count as language, while intended body language does. For example, gesturing in the motion of a yawn to communicate to someone else that you are bored is language, while yawning itself is not language because it is involuntary. It was also interesting to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of translation. The concept of back-translation is translating something which has been translated into a target language back into the original language. It was fascinating to see that in many cases the final translation conveyed an entirely different meaning from the original. In conclusion, one of the main things I learned about language from reading this chapter is that although a great deal of our knowledge comes through language, language also has several limitations that come from its ambiguity.

2/27/17. We spent class time today brainstorming ideas and planning out our project. We started by discussing different aspects of reason and eventually came to the consensus that we wanted to focus on persuasive language with the essential question “How does language shape knowledge?” We wanted to look at how persuasive language is used in advertisements to manipulate buyers, since ads are something that we are constantly surrounded by in this technological era. At first, we planned on discussing several different ads and how persuasive language is used in each, but then we realized that this was far too much information for the amount of time we had. So we picked what we considered to be the best ad for the purposes of our presentation and looked at various types of persuasive language within that one ad. We noticed that since the Popchips ad used a lot of words in general, it utilized the persuasive techniques of emotive language, weasel words, and revealing and concealing. Additionally, as I had just done the Way of Knowing, reason, I noticed that these were similar to the way in which logical fallacies influence reason. Specifically, the logical fallacies of equivocation, false analogy, and ad ignorantiam were somewhat utilized in this ad through persuasive language. So, we decided to include a sub-question to the essential question, “How does language affect reason?” The answer to this question is that the ambiguity of language often influences our ability to reason. The way in which language is manipulated can make a seemingly true argument invalid. We can see the limitations of language and how it shapes knowledge in the ways in which it affects reason.

2/28/17. One of my elective readings was an article by Andrew Boyd, “Engines of Our Ingenuity, No. 2771: Shorthand.” This was a brief article on the history and application of shorthand and how it evolved over time. It was interesting to find out that various examples of shorthand have been found in ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Chinese texts, when I thought of shorthand as a pretty modern invention. It was also fascinating to learn that more than just a practical tool, shorthand had cultural roots as well. I connected this to the idea of language being creative that was repeatedly mentioned in the textbook. According to this article, it almost seemed as though shorthand was it’s own language, rather than just a variation of another language, and in some ways I believe this is true. The article also mentioned that texting is the modern form of shorthand, which although I had never before thought about it that way, I immediately recognized as true.

3/1/17. Now that we have finished presentations, I think we did a pretty good job on our project. We worked well as a team, divided up the work so it was manageable for everyone, and every member of the group contributed in a significant way. There were some terms that in hindsight we did not fully understand, so one thing that I plan on doing next time is seeing Mr. Morrison to ask about any confusing terms or concepts before doing the project. That way, we would be sure that all the information we are sharing is completely accurate. I think the decision to not do a Powerpoint but instead only show the ad was a very good one because the Powerpoint would have been unnecessary and more of a crutch than a positive addition to our presentation. I feel that I learned a lot about the Way of Knowing of language and it was interesting being able to connect two different Ways of Knowing, language and reason. Overall, it was a pretty good project and presentation, but there are still some areas in which we could improve as a group.

Extension Proposal

I believe the following essential question would make a good addition to the current list: How does translation shape knowledge? This is an important question to add because since we have so many different languages throughout the world, translation is a crucial aspect of language as a Way of Knowing. The way words are translated can greatly impact their meaning. In some cases, the translation can completely alter the meaning so that when the words are translated back, they are nearly unidentifiable from the original words. Additionally, translation is crucial in many real-world situations. For example, many multilingual people translate from language to language on a daily basis and international organizations such as the United Nations have to rely on a translator to communicate. For these reasons, I believe the aforementioned essential question would make a valuable addition to the current list.

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