Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

The Effects of Arguing Expectations and Predispositions on Perceptions of Argument Quality and Playfulness

Academic journal article Argumentation and Advocacy

The Effects of Arguing Expectations and Predispositions on Perceptions of Argument Quality and Playfulness

Article excerpt

A variant of message production research (e.g., Greene, 1997b) focuses on the production of interpersonal arguments (e.g., Hample, 2007). Concentrating on the argumentative nature of messages leads to examination of the content that is produced and tends to set aside questions of form, organization, and timing. Most of the relevant research in these main and subsidiary traditions is the same, and the two literatures are easily merged. This article examines some of the theorized processes involved in production of arguments. Generally speaking, we sought to discover how expectations and predispositions concerning face-to-face arguing affect one's judgments of the argumentative products themselves.

Although fuller theoretical descriptions of the process of argument production are available (e.g., Hample, 2007), we begin with a limited account, confined to the matters studied here. Anticipation of an interpersonal argument ostensibly activates certain cognitive elements. Message production researchers ordinarily concentrate on the activation of goals and plans, but we have something different, perhaps more basic or preliminary, in mind. Situations are perceptually classified (Dillard & Solomon, 2000). These classifications, in turn, activate several types of phenomena besides goals: procedural knowledge of how to participate in such an episode (Greene, 1997a); expectations concerning what may happen during the interaction (Burgoon, 1995; Honeycutt, 2003); and appraisals that result in emotional reactions to that sort of event (Scherer, Schorr, & Johnstone, 2001). We are concerned chiefly with the latter two, operationalized as argument frames (Hample, 2005a) and the degree to which people personalize interpersonal conflicts (Hample, 1999), respectively. The sections that follow elaborate what is known about argument frames, personalization of conflict, and judgments of argument.


Argument frames are people's understandings of why arguing occurs, how it takes place, and the nature of interpersonal arguing (the original theoretical treatment of frames appears in Hample, 2003; most research on frames is summarized in Hample, 2005a, ch. 2; see also Hample, Warner, & Young, 2006). The various frames are organized theoretically into three groups.

The first group is self-centered and concerns the primary goals that a person might pursue by means of arguing. These frames acknowledge that another person is involved in arguing, but the interlocutor is in the background and serves only as a means to or foil for one's own goals. Although developmental research has yet to be conducted, Hample (2003) suspects that this frame is the first to appear in children. One such frame is utility, arguing to obtain or achieve something. Most arguments, after all, are undertaken in order to persuade someone, for instance, to go to lunch, share a toy, pick up dry cleaning, or some other immediate personal goal. Another reason for arguing, another self-focused goal, is to display dominance. A person higher in power (or one who wishes to appear so) may argue to overwhelm the interlocutor, perhaps with argumentative skill, but also possibly with status, power, wealth, or a pointed vocabulary. More general than dominance is the expectation that arguing reveals identity. For example, a student might write an argumentative essay to establish that she is bright, or a minister might offer a proof of Christ's divinity to assure his congregation that his own faith is unwavering. A final self-oriented goal is play. Some people argue for fun or satisfaction, just as one might play chess. This frame is particularly interesting because some people, who simply do not understand that others argue playfully, take any argument at face value, with interpersonal difficulties the possible result.

The second group of frames takes into account the other person and conjoins one's goals to those of one's interlocutor. …

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