, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 153–163 | Cite as

Message Framing, Normative Advocacy and Persuasive Success



In a recent article in Argumentation, O’Keefe (Argumentation 21:151–163, 2007) observed that the well-known ‘framing effects’ in the social psychological literature on persuasion are akin to traditional fallacies of argumentation and reasoning and could be exploited for persuasive success in a way that conflicts with principles of responsible advocacy. Positively framed messages (“if you take aspirin, your heart will be more healthy”) differ in persuasive effect from negative frames (“if you do not take aspirin, your heart will be less healthy”), despite containing ‘equivalent’ content. This poses a potential problem, because people might be unduly (and unsuspectingly) influenced by mere presentational differences. By drawing on recent cognitive psychological work on framing effects in choice and decision making paradigms, however, we show that establishing whether two arguments are substantively equivalent—and hence, whether there is any normative requirement for them to be equally persuasive—is a difficult task. Even arguments that are logically equivalent may not be information equivalent. The normative implications of this for both speakers and listeners are discussed.


Framing effects Normativity Argumentation Persuasion Fallacy 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PsychologyCardiff UniversityCardiffUK

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