Why Are Ethics Important in Relation to “Visual Persuasion?”
Most visual materials that accompany written arguments serve one of two functions— they appeal to the emotions ( a photograph of a calf in a pen so narrow that the calf cannot turn, images of polar bears on melting ice caps, etc. ) or they clarify numerical data ( a graph showing rise of Earth temperatures over the course of several decades). They bypass cognitive processing and directly appeal to emotion.
Much of the more culturally oriented work was based in art history and art theory, sometimes using the terms visual rhetoric and visual culture to refer to artistic images exclusively. In still other cases, the use of the word visual included visualizing, the mental construction of internal images, while other scholars seemed to use it to refer solely to conventional two-dimensional images. Add those scholarly pursuits to the study of print and film advertising, television, and cinema, and suddenly a new field of inquiry emerged, rich with possibility, but sometimes puzzling in its breadth. The larger problem was not that rhetoricians were analyzing a wide variety of visuals—we saw this diversity of efforts as exciting and productive. The problem was that there seemed to be very little agreement on the basic nature of the two termsvisual and rhetoric.
When we try to convince someone of a point of view or win that next design client or project, chances are we are using persuasion: a process by which a person’s attitudes or behavior are, without duress, influenced by communications from other people.
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Richerson, P.J. & Boyd, R. (2004). Darwinian Evolutionary Ethics: Between Patriotism and Sympathy. In Philip Clayton and Jeffrey Schloss, (Eds.), Evolution and Ethics: Human Morality in Biological and Religious Perspective, pp. 50–77.