Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Analytical Report on 5 Topics from Speech Class

The following is an analytical report I had to write for my speech class, covering 5 things over 5 pages we studied in class and my opinions/experience with them. Some of it may be kind of common sense stuff and thus rather boring, but lemme know what ye webonauts out there think via comments.

Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs – The Boomerang Effect

Among the more interesting concepts discussed in our Speech class this semester was “The Boomerang Effect.” This is, basically, a turnaround of a person’s opinion after they have given deeper thought to something they were convinced of earlier on a Peripheral basis. (Peripheral referring to quick-response decisions made when offered reciprocation, consistency, social proof, etc). In my own experiences I have seen and heard many such peripheral persuasions, and my own sense of pride makes me prejudice any argument presented this way, especially after I have agreed to do something based on said agreements. For example, whenever my elder sister asks me for some favor or another (such as recently when she got me to drive her dryer down to a shop to get fixed and back up to her apartment) by way of a “guilt trip” (usually suggesting she’d get my father to carry out said errand, even at the risk of possible injury), I usually find myself resenting her for it. So, yes, the boomerang effect is a real psychological aftereffect.

“It’s For The Children!!” And Other Appeals to Emotion – Logical Fallacy?

Prior to presenting persuasive speeches, we went over a variety of logical fallacies to avoid in making arguments, and while “Appeal to Emotion” isn’t technically a logical fallacy per se, I think it fits in a bit with what we were just discussing (Boomerang Effect) and is thus, well, kind of a logical fallacy. While I can not speak for others, when I hear politicians on television or the internet making arguments based around emotionalism (usually accompanied by a little bit of exaggerated hyperbole) I find myself discouraged from listening to whatever otherwise logical arguments they were trying to make to support a given course of action. A good example of this in recent memory is found in the healthcare debate, where many politicians are using an ever-changing number of “millions of people” who are uninsured as a reason to further regulate hospitals, doctors, and related insurance companies. While it is not necessarily a logical fallacy to point out a societal problem and ask for empathy on behalf of the afflicted, it is at the least distasteful to use the existence of said problem as a reason to “do something.” So, again, while appeal to emotion is not a logical fallacy in and of itself, I think it is fair to say that it could cause a boomerang effect in an audience and is inadvisable, or at least merits careful thought before using.

On Powerpoint Usage – Keep It Simple!

When presenting a speech on a given topic we were advised against using very complex and fancy powerpoints; advice which in my experience is right on the money. A recent project I was doing for my Corporate Finance class required a powerpoint to accompany a ten minute presentation on whether or not starting a software development company was a worthwhile investment. How lucky I was to be in Speech class at the same time! Where many of my classmates had used a wide variety of colors in their powerpoints, and images that often obscured the spreadsheets and numerical figures which were supposed to be the meat of the research; my partner and I had a simple, straight-to-the-point set of slides to get across our main points. While the grades have yet to come in I am reasonably confident that we probably scored fairly well overall, and likely got full points for the powerpoint. Therefore, I have to agree with the book and lectures on powerpoint presentations, that conciseness and clarity are far more important than boisterous effects and fashionista design.

Cultivation Theory – How Accurate Are Our “Informed” Perceptions?

Do TV and the Internet present an accurate image of the world around us? Most of us would likely agree that television and movies give people over-exaggerated perceptions of the kinds of physical beauty and intelligence they should expect in potential mates, for starters. Certainly not every guy has as clean a face as Brad Pitt and certainly not all women are as curvaceous as Angelina Jolie, yet I wonder how many marriages have been broken because one spouse or the other thinks not only that they can find someone better, but that they deserve someone better than whomever they are currently paired with? I have personally seen such “entitled” behavior present in my sisters and female cousins (granted, their chosen beaus are often rather unimpressive individuals…perhaps that is only my own twisted perceptions speaking, though), where they always seem to think that “the grass is greener” someplace or with someone else.
Of course, looks are not the only things that are perceived improperly; I doubt you would find it surprising that a number of political positions held by a number of people are often misrepresented on a daily basis. It almost seems that the more fallacious an argument, the more news coverage it gets. As a for instance, a strong memory of mine is scenes of people pulling cots and mattresses into the House of Representatives back in the middle of the nineties, when Clinton, the president at the time, was vetoing and trying to shut out Republicans from important budget votes. I can not tell you how many people I have run into who credit Clinton with the budget and the net surplus that was arrived at as a result of that moment in history. Then again, maybe it is I who have been given “a spin” on that particular bit of history.

Uses and Gratification Theory

How easy is it to close your ears, hum to yourself, and ignore everything you do not want to hear, only paying attention to the sources you want to listen to? Far too easy, according to our Speech textbook. The idea that people in this day and age who use social media on the internet tend to close their circle off to other points of view is certainly easy to imagine. And surely, there is a bubble I could lock myself into on the net. Take twitter, for example, the much-maligned 140-word-limit social media service. There exists a way of “tweeting” to a certain set of individuals and only that certain set, and you can block and ignore anyone who would say something you do not want to hear. In particular, there’s a “channel” of sorts on twitter known as “#p2” which is full of people who generally hold ‘liberal’ points of view… and a channel called “#tcot” typically representing the opposing side. So here we have two bubbles of mutually exclusive groups and a method available to tune out opposing sides. Does this happen in practice? Surprisingly, no. You see, internet communication has a long history of “trolling,” “flame wars,” and “baiting” in which people go online with the sole purpose of debating people on the other side, either to ridicule them by baiting them into an argument where they look foolish, or to ‘win’ an argument, thus showing off supposed intellectual fortitude. All in all, I think this meme-like behavior will prevent social media users to ever completely cordon themselves off (though some certainly give a good effort).