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Cause-and-Effect Reasoning

 

Disciplines Argument > Types of reasoning > Cause-and-Effect Reasoning

Description | Example | Discussion | See also

 

Description

When you are presenting an argument, show the cause-and-effect that is in operation. Help the other person see why things have happened or will happen as they do.

Show purpose. Link things to higher values. Show the inevitable linkage between what happens first and what happens next. Go beyond correlation (that may show coincidence) to giving irrefutable evidence of causality.

If you cannot show causal linkage, then you may be successful just by asserting it, because few people will challenge a cause-and-effect assertion.

Example

 

Say this Not this
If I help you, you will be more successful. I will help you.
When the moon is high, things are abroad. Things are sometimes abroad.
The new additive to fuel makes your car go so much further. Add our new fuel additive to your car.

 

Discussion

We have deep needs for explanation and to be able to predict what will happen. We also need to be able to appear rational to others, and that they appear rational to us. When a person explains cause and effect, we are reassured that they are, indeed, reasonable people, and we hence trust them and their arguments more than we might otherwise do.

This need leads to psychological effects where you can offer a cause-and-effect argument that clearly has no real causal connection, yet it is surprising how many people will accept your argument without question. In a famous experiment, Ellen Langer et al were able to butt into a queue for a photocopier just by saying 'Can I use the photocopier because I want to use the photocopier' (yet without giving reason, the researcher was not allowed to jump the queue).

See also

Causal Fallacies, Need to explain, Need to predict, Need for rationality

 

Langer, E., Blank, A., & Chanowitz, B. (1978). The mindless of ostensibly thoughtful action: The role of “placebic” information in interpersonal interaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 36(6), 635-642

 

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