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RC practice Passage with Explanation -24

Suppose you are about to make a speech attempting to persuade your audience that more spending on education is necessary or that the budget deficit should be reduced through cuts in domestic spending. There are a few different ways you might approach your argument. When it comes down to it, though, you must find a way of presenting your material to your audience that is most effective. What factors make a one—sided argument so effective that they seem to be the tactic of choice for most modern propagandists?

If a communicator mentions the opposition's arguments, it might indicate that he or she is an objective, fair—minded person; this could enhance the speaker's trustworthiness and thus increase his or her effectiveness. On the other hand, if a communicator so much as mentions the arguments of the other side of the issue, it might suggest to the audience that the issue is a controversial one; this could make members of the audience vacillate.

With these possibilities in mind, it should not come as a surprise that there is no simple relation between one—sided arguments and the effectiveness of the communication. It depends to some extent upon how well informed the audience is and on the audience's initial opinions on the issue. Citing research contrary to one's thesis must be a measured risk. If the audience is not already aware of this research, they might be unduly swayed in the wrong direction. Research generally finds that the more well informed the members of the audience are, the less likely they are to be persuaded by a one—sided argument and the more likely they are to be persuaded by an argument that brings out the important opposing arguments and then attempts to refute them. We should underscore that the research does not favor the effectiveness of a simple two—sided argument: It favors the effectiveness of presenting both sides and pointing out the weaknesses in your opponent's position.

This makes sense: A well—informed person is more likely to know some of the counterarguments; when the communicator avoids mentioning these, the knowledgeable members of the audience are likely to conclude that the communicator is either unfair or unable to refute such arguments. On the other hand, an uninformed person is less apt to know of the existence of opposing arguments. If the counterargument is ignored, the less well—informed members of the audience are persuaded; if the counterargument is presented, they might get confused.

The message—dense nature of the mass media often makes it difficult to respond intelligently to what we receive. It takes considerable mental effort to process effectively the stream of one short message after another. Advertisers have observed that consumers frequently find comparative advertising confusing; they mistake one brand for another, leading to a situation in which the advertiser is publicizing the competition. For this reason, comparative advertising is rarely used by the leading brand (why give an upstart free publicity?); it is used mostly by a challenger that might gain from being confused with the leader.

Another factor influencing the effectiveness of one— versus two—sided persuasion is the partisanship of the audience. As we might expect, if a member of the audience is already predisposed to believe the communicator's argument, a one—sided presentation has a greater impact on his or her opinion than a two—sided presentation.


Suppose that the President of the United States wants to persuade foreign policy experts in Congress to support the deployment of American troops overseas. The President should do which of the following to convince these experts to support troop deployment?

[A] Make a one—sided argument that addresses only the potential benefits of such a policy
[B] Make a one—sided argument that addresses only the potential costs of such a policy
[C] Make a two—sided argument that addresses both the potential benefits and potential costs of such a policy
[D] Make an argument that appeals to emotions rather than one that addresses the facts
Option: 3

An application question. What does the effectiveness of an argument depend on according to an author? The knowledge and preconceptions of the audience. Foreign policy experts are by definition knowledgeable about the subject, and so a two—sided argument that points out the weaknesses in the opposing position will be most effective according to the author. (C) repeats this.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. This sort of argument would be better—suited to an uninformed or partisan audience.

(B): Opposite. Arguing against his own policy wouldn't help the President.

(D): Out of Scope. The author never argues the merits of this type of argument.


With respect to the sentence, "Advertisers have observed that consumers frequently find comparative advertising confusing; they mistake one brand for another, leading to a situation in which the advertiser is publicizing the competition, " which one of the following is an example of "comparative advertising? "

[A] The manufacturer of Brand V explains why consumers should prefer its product
[B] The manufacturer of Brand W explains why its product is superior to Brand X's product
[C] The manufacturer of Brand Y explains why its product is the cheapest on the market
[D] The manufacturer of Brand Z explains why its product is better than those of unnamed competitors
Option: 2

An easy way to answer this question is to note the word "comparative "—a comparison needs two things to compare. Only (B) mentions two Brands. You can also jump back to the paragraph about comparative advertising to review the author's main points on the practice: Comparative advertising confuses consumers, and so it usually only helps an underdog who would benefit from the confusion. Looking for an instance in which one product is compared to another turns up (B) alone.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. There is no comparison in this answer choice.

(C): Opposite. As above.

(D): Opposite. As above.

Strategy Point: Go back to the relevant text to review concepts. The method of advertising mentioned in this question isn't something the author considers effective. Relying on memory or map alone could easily lead to choosing Opposite answer choices.


Implicit in the authors' discussion of audience receptivity to messages is the assumption that:

[A] advertisements are an ineffective means to get people to buy consumer products.
[B] the mass media attempt to shape public opinion to suit their own interests.
[C] most people do not generally think carefully about what they are told by others.
[D] the less people know about an issue, the more likely they are to accept the opinion of others.
Option: 4

An assumption question: review the relevant arguments the author makes. The author argues that audiences are receptive to one—sided arguments if they're not knowledgeable about the subject, vice versa if they are. What assumption is implicit in this and necessary to make the argument work? That audiences without knowledge are willing to be convinced one way or the other. Choice (D) matches well with this. If in doubt, use the denial test. If people who don't know much about an issue are unlikely to accept the opinions of others, a one—sided argument wouldn't be at all effective. The author's argument falls apart, and the answer as it is written must therefore be a necessary assumption.

Wrong answers:

(A): Distortion. The author mentions one ineffective method of advertising in paragraph 5, but that doesn't mean that all advertising is ineffective.

(B): Out of Scope. The author never mentions the concerns of mass media.

(C): Out of Scope. While some people have less knowledge than others, that doesn't mean that most people don't listen carefully.


Based on the arguments and information put forth by the author in the passage, which of the following statements is true?

[A] One—sided arguments are generally less effective than two—sided arguments when the message is being delivered to a knowledgeable audience.
[B] Comparative advertising is always an effective way for a company to sell more of its products.
[C] Highly educated people are more receptive to two—sided arguments than less highly educated people.
[D] Communicators who employ one—sided arguments are usually not fair—minded people.
Option: 1

An inference question. Review the author's main points about arguments before hitting the answer choices. A good grasp of these will immediately lead to (A), which although not explicitly stated, is just the converse of the author's argument.

Wrong answers:

(B): Opposite. The author argues that comparative advertising only works in certain situations and is rarely used.

(C): Distortion. A trick answer choice. The author is talking about knowledgeable audiences, not highly—educated ones. Be careful to avoid translating one concept to another that may sound similar but is out of scope.

(D): Distortion. This author suggests in paragraph 4 that the audience may consider the communicator unfair, but doesn't suggest anywhere that this is actually the case.

Strategy Point: Inference questions are looking for an answer choice that must be true based on the passage. Because of this, they will often simply restate the author's main point in slightly different terms.


The existence of which of the following phenomena would challenge the information in the passage?

[A] I only
[B] III only
[C] I and II
[D] II and III
Option: 4

Look for answer choices that counter the author's one—sided/two—sided argument breakdown. All answer choices appear equally often, so start with RN I, which essentially restates the author's characterization of a well—informed listener. Get rid of (A) and (C). RN II, however, counters the author's argument that uninformed audiences will prefer one—sided messages. Eliminate (B). While you have the correct answer at this point, checking RN III shows the flip side of RN II, another instance of an audience member who doesn't fit into the author's profiles.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. For the reasons listed above.

(B): Opposite. As above.

(C): Opposite. As above.


If the claims made in the passage are correct, how would a communicator who is aware of these claims be expected to react to a knowledgeable, open—minded audience?

[A] The communicator would not try to make an argument.
[B] The communicator would present a one—sided argument.
[C] The communicator would present a two—sided argument.
[D] The communicator would appeal to the audience's emotions.
Option: 3

An application question. Simply apply the author's general arguments to the specific situation. If a communicator knows the author's arguments are true and is speaking to a knowledgeable and unbiased audience, which argument will she choose? The two—sided one. (C) gives you the quick points.

Wrong answers:

(A): Opposite. The situation fits the author's two—sided scenario perfectly.

(B): Opposite. This would fit the profile of a communicator speaking to the opposite type of audience.

(D): Out of Scope. The author never argues that arguments should appeal to emotions.

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