Short paper #1. IT SOUNDS GOOD . . . BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Verbal
Note: Text limited to one page, 300 words. One extra page with visuals (diagrams or
drawings)may be included.
In a democratic society, public policy is influenced by public opinion, and public opinion
(including your opinion and mine) is influenced by verbal arguments presented on radio
and television talk shows, in newspaper editorials and letters to the editor, and in sound
bites, slogans, and bumper stickers. Many highly effective influence tactics change
people's attitudes or behavior without engaging them in effortful thought. Sound bites and
bumper stickers, for example, make a point in a memorable way (just as proverbs do--see
CT 26) without presenting any concrete evidence in support of that point.
Opponents of gun control, for example, have come up with some great slogans:
GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE: PEOPLE KILL PEOPLE
IF GUNS ARE OUTLAWED, ONLY OUTLAWS WILL HAVE GUNS
In such slogans, the underlying argument is implied, not articulated.
A letter to the editor of the Register-Guard soon after the shootings at Thurston High
suggested a new bumper sticker:
GUNS DON'T KILL CHILDREN: CHILDREN KILL CHILDREN
In your paper, clarify what makes the three slogans effective (CT may help with ideas),
and identify the issues and underlying assumptions and arguments that go with the three
slogans. What evidence would constitute convincing support for the argument? Now
consider the opposite (CT 6). What evidence would undermine the implied argument?
Note: You don't need to FIND evidence, just clarify what would be good evidence if it
Feel free to use any other public policy issue that has generated good slogans or sound
bites. You need at least two slogans to serve as a foundation for the paper.
DEADLINE: Turn in to Barb in class, Wed, Oct 14, or to the main psychology office (Straub 131) to put in Barb Carini's box by 3 PM latest. If you do this, be sure to write clearly on the front of the paper "put in Barb Carini's mailbox." Late papers have an automatic 5-point deduction (out of 30 points possible for the paper). No papers will be accepted after Friday class is over (grade = 0).