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Using evidence

 

Techniques General persuasion > Using evidence

Increasing effectiveness | No effect | Other things | See also

 

Evidence in persuasion is a powerful tool and, as all lawyers know, needs to be used with care to achieve the maximum effect.

Increasing effectiveness

Evidence given can be more effective under particular conditions, including when:

  • The audience is engaged and involved.
  • The evidence is given in a form that is easy to understand.
  • The persuader is unknown or has lower credibility.
  • The evidence is delivered with conviction.
  • The evidence has not been heard before.
  • The evidence confirms their own perceptions.
  • The listener is highly dogmatic (and by definition is persuaded by facts).

Engagement

By far the most effective of these is engagement of the audience. If they are intellectually involved in thinking about the situation and, for even greater effect, if they experience the evidence for themselves, then they will be significantly more likely to be persuaded and also more likely to permanently change their viewpoint.

Narrative

A common and effective way of making evidence easy to understand is to put in into a story form, whereby the listener can more easily engage with the flow and sequence of events and identify with major characters.

In telling the overall story, a structure is given into which appropriate evidence is given at appropriate times. Stories thus help the listener to contextualize the evidence, using the situation to give it sense and reason.

No effect

Research has also shown some surprising results in the lack of effect, and things that have been shown to have little effect on how persuasive is evidence is for the listener:

  • The amount of emotion in the evidence.
  • Biased evidence.
  • Evidence given against oneself ('reluctant evidence').
  • Whether the evidence is given live, on tape, etc.

Other things...

Other things to remember about using evidence include:

  • Some evidence is better than no evidence.
  • Weak evidence may be used to undermine stronger evidence (so think hard about what evidence not to use).
  • Evidence can be more effective in creating permanent change in people.

See also

Toulmin's three elements, Evidence principle

Seasonal transformation

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