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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 15-Aug-10


Friday 13-August-10

Obvious persuasion

I saw this poster on a church recently:

Obviously there is a God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.

Is this persuasive? I thought so. But why? First consider the difference between the following statements:

There is a God.

Obviously there is a God.

The first is an assertion that could easily lead to a doubter answering 'no there isn't!' or something similar. But when the second sentence adds 'obviously' one might pause. It's like saying 'of course', with an implication that there's something wrong with you if you don't agree.  But most would, after that critical pause, revert to the original doubt. But giving pause is a surprisingly powerful technique, as into this moment you can slip all kinds of persuasive things.

So consider the next sentence: 'Now stop worrying and enjoy life.' This contains two commands that you can't really argue with. The first one starts with 'now', which pulls you into the present (and away from thinking about the previous sentence). 'Stop worrying' is clever as most people worry about all sorts of things but by saying it, the writer seems like a bit of a mind reader, making everything else more true. Being commands, these phrases also grab you, and in doing so distract you away from any objection to the first statement. And they are nice and desirable and, in accepting these, you are more likely to accept the first statement.

Neat, huh? Obviously.

Your comments

That poster was likely a rebuttal to a series of posters drafted by athiest groups???[]

The word in the original(?) poster that counters the word "obviously" is "probably".

Ironically, while the second sentence in both is such a definite command, the premise is a little foggy.... "probably", "obviously"....?

If BOTH posters were on the same bus....

The bleary-eyed Monday morning commuters, if they had enough focus to read either one, might conclude that since neither author was technically sure about the basis of their advice, ignored both, didn't worry, and got on with their day..... enjoyable or mundane!

-- Peter

Dave replies:
Aha! Well spotted Peter. Less religious originality and more turning the tables, using the ideas of your opponents. Also as you say, neat exchange from 'probably' to 'obviously'.

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