The Contribution of Semiotic
and Rhetorical Perspectives to the
Explanation of Visual Persuasion
Edward F. McQuarrie
Santa Clara University
David Glen Mick
University of Virginia
There are many ways to conceptualize the role of the visual element in advertising. In this chapter we address this issue from the perspectives of semiotics and rhetoric, and attempt to articulate their distinctive contributions, along with supporting empirical evidence. From semiotics we draw the ideas of sign and text. A sign is anything that can stand for something else. Text refers to any purposeful assemblage of signs, whether written or spoken, linguistic or pictorial. In light of this, pictures can be read as texts composed of signs. From rhetoric we draw the idea of a figure of speech. As developed here, figures need not be embodied in language, but can be defined more abstractly in terms of sign structure, so that visual figures are possible. To appreciate more fully the specific contribution of rhetorical and semiotic perspectives, it may be useful first to sketch briefly some of the alternative perspectives available.
Perhaps the most basic distinction among perspectives is whether one focuses on the human system that processes the visual elements, or on the visual elements
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Publication information: Book title: Persuasive Imagery: A Consumer Response Perspective. Contributors: Linda M. Scott - Editor, Rajeev Batra - Editor. Publisher: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Place of publication: Mahwah, NJ. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 191.
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