Bio-Programming – Influence – Argument

Friday, December 18th, 2009 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Last week we discussed the process of influence, how it actually works, what makes one person affect another person’s behaviour, the emotional connections and leading emotional associations which make two people more alike, more ready and willing and likely to agree.

If disagreement is noted, made conscious, your best chance to influence someone has already gone. As soon as the rational mind of those you wish to influence is pointed at the real crux of a disparity in your collective intended course of action, you will find yourself in an argument, and attitudes will tend to become entrenched.

You do not want this. You want to influence people before they become aware of their own position. You want to share with them with your values, your emotional associations, your point of view, so that you both already, naturally, come to the same conclusions as soon as you think about them.

However, an argument can still be ‘won’, for whatever that’s worth in terms of actually influencing people. An argument can still convince. Perhaps better than this, it can also be a forum which gives you time and opportunity to present different associations, evoke emotional references, that will actually change the mind of those you argue with.

Sometimes, people will just be arguing to find a reason to do whatever they already have decided to do. You can certainly provide that.

What is an argument

For two people to argue, they must have some things in common. They must each agree that to convince is better than simply to force a course of action. They must each agree on a language. They must each have a similar enough model of the universe inside their skulls that they can understand each other.

Indeed, the entire object of an argument is to find the disagreement between two peoples’ (or groups’) model of the world, their expectation, their motivation, their understanding, then to test which side in the argument is right. In an ideal world, someone would find the flaw in your argument, teach you to refine your model of the universe for the better, and you would agree to their course of action. Because they are right and the whole point of an argument is to determine who’s right.

The point of an argument must be to be convinced as much as it is to convince. Without that you are betraying the process of arguing itself. Unless you can agree on that, you are not properly arguing, there is no point unless you both agree you are not intractable.

How is an argument constructed

An argument is a way to substantiate a claim. This claim may be a proposed action, such as “We should buy a house” or “This country should go to war”. Alternatively it may just be a state of mind which you wish another to adopt like “The weather is inclement” or “West Bromwich has the best football team in the country.”

This claim is disputed among the people involved in the argument. If it not disputed, all sides have already ‘won’ the argument.

When an claim is disputed, an argument is constructed to attempt to validate that claim. That is, in order validate a claim, you construct an argument for it. To do this you break the claim down into premises.

These premises should ideally be claims which are undisputed between the two disputants. An ideal premiss is undeniable.

The premises are connected by a warrant. The “warrant” is a chain of reasoning which all disputants agree is steadfast. If the parties agree with this chain of reasoning, then they agree that if the premises are valid, then the claim is valid. As with the premises, you ideally wish to find warrants which all disputants will agree are valid.

If the warrant is undisputed, and all the premises are undisputed, then by definition the two parties agree.

If not, then each of the premises can be examined in turn. Many of these will also be undisputed of course, but eventually one of them may be found to be the source of disagreement. This premiss can then, in itself, become a disputed claim and so the subject of a sub-argument. The arguers may then proceed with the same procedure over this new, smaller, disputed claim.

In the event that all the premiss are agreed, but still the claim is disputed, it must be that the warrant is contested. Then, a whole new argument will branch off recursively which attempts to validate the claim that the warrant is in fact true.

In this way, the disputants hope to find the premiss, warrant or claim which most effectively conveys the dispute, and to find a way to resolve it through recursively drilling down to find where one of the disputant’s model of the universe contradicts reality and so help the one who’s wrong to change and become more right.


This is all very abstract, but hopefully we can make it more clear with an example.

Imagine that you have made the claim that West Brom are the best football team ever, and that someone disputes this claim. You wish to form an argument which could convince them that you are, in fact, right and that in the real world West Brom are the best football team ever.

Obviously the “Claim” here is that the team refered to as “West Brom” are superior to any other team. This will need to be backed up with premises. As mentioned, ideally these will be statements of fact, things which are uncontestable. We might chose such premises as “West Brom scored the most points in the league this season” and “West Brom’s goalie let in the least goals of anyone in all the matches“. Obviously these two premises may be contested, but it should be a simple matter to look up the results and so it’s likely that, if true, they can be agreed by both parties to the argument.

Now of course it could be that your premises are invalid. That another goal keeper let in less goals than the West Brom keeper, say. This would then make this premiss the subject of a new argument. You and your disputant would need to argue over the truth of that claim.

However, even if all premises are agreed, there is more to the argument than this. There is also the warrant. The warrant, in this case, is the chain of reasoning which implies that “The team which wins the most points in the league, and who’s goal keeper lets in the least goals, is the best team”

Even with the premises agreed to, the warrant itself is a potential source of contention. Your disputant may say, “No, the best team is in fact the one which won the cup, not the league”, thus challenging your case by challenging your warrant.

The process of becoming good at argument, at debate, at essentially following these rules to best advantage, is beyond the scope of this course, but is essentially one of practice. Reading, learning, watching others argue, these will all improve your ability to home in on the point of disagreement between your map of reality and your disputant’s, and then find premises and warrants to show your side correct. We certainly encourage you to build this skill.

Remember Emotion

Although we’ve gone into some detail to describe the format in which an argument takes place, the logical path behind it, it’s worth remembering that this is a tiny fraction of the actual process of influence. Most influence is still affected not by the logical necessity addressed to the conscious brain, but by the processes we mentioned last week; Emotional significance, gut-feeling, excitement or fear.

This process is a game, a forum for us to play in, a logically undeniable contest but it does not actually convince people. At least not very often. There are always reasons to contest claims, to dispute warrants, to doubt premises. When constructing your case, unless you’re arguing against some sci-fi robot, a cyborg from the future, you should likely pay more attention to the emotional associations that you make than trying to find actual sources of disagreement. It’s changing those emotional associations which will actually influence people, not the person who ‘won’ a logical argument.

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