Blog Post #8: Persuasion

People compose and are given persuasive speeches on a regular basis, but not all realise what they are doing. An obvious example of persuasive speeches is those of politicians in their election campaign. But they can also be as simple as a customer bargaining over a product, or an applicant selling themselves in the interview for a job, or a kid asking its parents for a new bicycle.

My most recent debate with somebody is about a math problem. Yes, yes, typical Asian nerd. The incident happened in COMM Seminar’s break time, since MATH seminar was right after that, and persisted until the class had resumed (I’m sorry, Scott, I know we shouldn’t do that). I usually compare my Math assignment with Starr – of course, another nerd in my class. Most of the times we had the same results, but this time it was different. For the assignment, we teamed up to do several measurements in a group and then calculated the possible errors individually. Starr was in the same group with Duy, the other Vietnamese in the class; I was in another group. We did the math on our own, but they shared the same results, and I didn’t. Since I followed the exact instructions given by the teacher, I knew I was right, and they, who used the incorrect method for the case, were wrong. But Starr kept telling me the opposite.

Starr told me she didn’t believe all Asians were smart, which was not related to the topic and was clearly just a red herring and thereby not being able to throw my confidence off balance. I returned to the problem and tried to explain my idea again. Then she said because two of them were in the same group, so if their results were the same, then it should be more reliable. But that doesn’t sound logical at all since people in the same group would have more chance to have the same results as they are influenced by each other. Her last attempt before Scott dragged our attention back to Brian Cable’s profile was the argument that they were more people, so as the minority I should be wrong. But Galileo was also the minority, against the rest of the world. And he was right. There is no probability in that. The majority is not necessarily correct (which Scott also agreed with).

Starr attacked me three times: the first time she tried to draw my attention to another topic, the second and third times she used logical reasoning. But I could see the fallacies in her argument, so she failed to convince me.

Anyway, that was that. The grade was posted after a while and we knew who was right. Still good friends, though.


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