When having students write persuasive essays, I’ve always found the most difficult issue is teaching the idea and importance of including opposing views and counter-arguments. In fact, on occasion I’ll admit to having decided that it is more trouble than it’s worth, and skipped that step entirely.
No more, however.
A survey of over one hundred studies in the last fifty years now concludes that arguments that include opposing views with counter-arguments are more persuasive. Here are some excerpts on a report about the study:
…if we bring up opposing arguments, then shoot them down, not only is the audience more likely to be swayed, we also see a boost in our credibility.
Overall this is a nice conclusion, in that not only is a balanced argument more appealing morally, it is also more persuasive. And it doesn’t matter whether counter-arguments are introduced at the start, the end, or mixed in; as long as they are refuted, we are more likely to persuade the audience.
So, no matter how hard-line you are on a particular issue, remember that people aren’t idiots, they know there are two sides to every story and they’ll discount your message unless you acknowledge and counter the other side.
Since I want students to be able to develop skills that will help them in real-life, remembering this study will give me a little more energy to include this element in my teaching. And sharing the results of this study might provide a little more impetus to my students, too, to deal with the challenge and difficulty they might have in incorporating opposing views and a counter-argument into their essays.
I’m adding this post to The Best Online Resources For Helping Students Learn To Write Persuasive Essays.