• “Evidence-based persuasion”

    That’s the title of a JAMA Viewpoint by David Shaw and Bernice Elger. The whole thing is worth a read (it’s ungated and short). Here’s a taste:

    There are at least 3 different types of persuasion. The first is the removal of biases; the second is recommending a particular course of action and providing evidence and reasons in favor of it; and the third is the potential creation of new biases, which could cross the line into unethical manipulation. The first of these is always mandatory, the second is usually permissible but sometimes inappropriate, and the third is normally impermissible but sometimes acceptable in rare cases.

    What do you think of this? Do you buy it for medicine? Do you buy it for anything else or for all things? Is removal of bias the most moral and universally acceptable (always mandatory?) type of persuasion?


    • Oh my! Austin, I detect a bias in the article, that the doctor knows best. I appeal to authority for a different take. First regarding medicine is this thoughtful commentary by David Cutler, http://newsatjama.jama.com/2013/04/17/jama-forum-social-status-and-health-a-coming-issue-for-physicians/ For example, he writes,

      “The bad news is that many physicians are poor at outreach. They speak to patients using language that requires sophisticated understanding when the nature of the message needs to vary across individuals. The good news is that physicians are not the most important part of outreach. Well-trained health coaches have been shown to increase use of chronic care services and reduce use of acute care. The primary qualification of good health coaches is not that they know medicine, but instead that they are good working with people.”

      Regarding persuasion generally, my authority is Aristotle’s Rhetoric. To persuade is to apply Aristotle’s use of ethos, pathos and logos: To first demonstrate that you are the right person, then set the emotional stage, and finally give the reasons. This is spelled out nicely by Mortimer J. Adler in his book, “How to Speak, How to Listen,” (In the chapter on Salesmanship). A copy of that chapter (in Part II) is here: