follow CCP

Recent blog entries
« Cultural cognition--plus lots of other relevant things-- & nuclear energy: experts *get it* | Main | What does the Trayvon Martin case mean? What *should* it mean? part 2 »
Thursday
Apr122012

Is evoking emotion a means of communicating "factual information" on risk and the like? The Wittlin test

I would say "yes, so long as..." and then launch into a long, abstract account of emotion as a form of cognitive perception that is uniquely suited to apprehending the significance of information for goods a person values (see Damasio, Descartes' Error; Nussbaum, Upheavals of Thought) but that is also vulnerable to bias and hence manipulation, blah blah...

Maggie Wittlin, however, has sent me an email that convinces me there is a much simpler answer: unconditionally"yes" or unconditionally "no" depending on what the emotional appeal is about and what the cultural worldview is of the person answering the question! 

Two recent cases (one argued today) seem to be asking the question: are images that cause strong emotional reactions toward the subject matter informative?  Or are they mere advocacy?  I think you'll get two different answers based on (1) whether you ask and egalitarian or a hierarch (serious individualists might be consistent) and (2) which case you ask about:

On the right, we have the Texas sonogram case, where CJ Edith Jones writes, "Though there may be questions at the margins, surely a photograph and description of its features constitute the purest conceivable expression of 'factual information.' If the sonogram changes a woman’s mind about whether to have an abortion -- a possibility which Gonzales says may be the effect of permissible conveyance of knowledge, Gonzales, 550 U.S. at 160, 127 S. Ct. at 1634 -- that is a function of the combination of her new knowledge and her own 'ideology' ('values' is a better term), not of any 'ideology' inherent in the information she has learned about the fetus."

On the left, we have the challenge to the FDA cigarette warning label regulations, where "Stern also argued today that smokers do not fully understand tobacco’s harmful effect on health. The images, he argued, communicate the risk of smoking more effectively than do text warnings."  On the other hand, "Noel Francisco, representing R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in the dispute, said the labels cross the line from fact-based to issue advocacy. The government is triggering a negative emotional reaction."

 

 

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Post:
 
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>