Don’t feel bad when I tell you that you are all prejudiced because I don’t mean you’re evil (at least, not all of you…). We all have preconceived feelings related to events, persons, and concepts, and we don’t necessarily have control over those judgments. Prejudice does denote negative feelings as the Oxford English Dictionary defines the word, so maybe prejudgment is more accurate because our conversation focuses on preconceived ideas or assumptions related to professional experience that do not necessarily imply rash, negative feelings. Normally, as the OED defines it, “prejudice” is used for prejudgments based on race, class, ethnicity, etc.
However, before we address professional contexts, let’s discuss some more familiar situations. Below are statements that, because of one’s perception, you probably have made assumptions about the speakers based on what they say and who you think they are. There are no right or wrong answers, but let’s consider our assumptions just on the statements. Obviously, this isn’t objective, and there’s definitely room for ambiguity, but I think we might have some consensus.
Statements with Audience: Break into discussion by rows…
- Ten-year-old girl: “I was watching Hannah Montana while eating breakfast…”
- Fifty-year-old man: “I was watching Hannah Montana while eating breakfast…”
- Twenty-five-year-old mother: “I was watching The Jerry Springer Show with my children yesterday…”
- Nineteen-year-old woman: “I was watching The Jerry Springer Show with my friends yesterday…”
- Eighth Grader: “Those Twilight movies rock…”
- Forty-year old: “Robert Pattinson is my favorite vampire…”
- Thirty-year-old woman: “I need to replace the NASCAR sticker on my pickup…”
- Fifty-year-old man: “I need to replace the NASCAR sticker on my pickup…”
- Anyone: “My car’s cassette deck ate my Rick Astley tape…”
- Anyone: “That Vanilla Ice sure can sing…”
- Man/Woman: “Call me on your cell phone…”
- Respondent: “I don’t have a cell phone…”
Note on Rhetoric
I call this section “Prejudice and Rhetoric” because rhetoric is more than just empty political speech. We’ll discuss forms of rhetoric all semester, but, for now, I want to highlight a few points about rhetoric:
- Yes, it is the art of using the available means of persuasion, but that doesn’t mean rhetoric is always used for propaganda purposes.
- Rhetoric is also the built-in socially constructed meanings cultures associate with products (e.g., nuclear weapons as symbols of power or luxury cars as symbols of status).
- In professional/technical communication, delivery formats are rhetorical devices and strategies that can imply levels of formality (e.g. glossy paper vs. handwritten notes).
- Evoking particular professions and “facts” are rhetorical strategies. For instance, which of the following statements are more persuasive than the others:
- “Prof. Björn Ulvaeus’s team of scientists has found evidence that pesticide runoff causes algae blooms, which decreases oxygen levels in water.”
- “Scientists claim we must stop putting dihydrogen monoxide in our food.”
- “A recent survey by Beloit College given to incoming Freshman claims 95% love texting.”
- “Statistics show divorce rates are over 50%.”
Again, we’ll discuss the nuances of rhetoric as they relate to Information Design this semester, but I want to make it clear that equating rhetoric with empty, emotionally charge speech is not a full definition.
Prejudice and Images
Based on the images below, which subject is most trustworthy:
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