demagogues risk criticism. Such criticism leads to more rational rhetoric, which in turn leads to the encouragement of more rational critics, and so on. A rational polis is created speech by speech and criticism by criticism.
In short, the motivation to argue rationally is a personality trait that flourishes or withers depending on the cultural soil in which it is planted. By the time students reach college, their real-life argument motivations and skills are already deeply entrenched psychologically. Verbal aggressiveness is reinforced by a culture considerably hostile to rationality and prone to the use offeree or threat offeree, private or political, to solve problems and resolve disputes. It is unlikely that a single college course taken to fulfill a general education requirement will transform the motivations of Beavis and Butthead into those of Lincoln and Douglas. What is needed is an instructional program beginning in elementary school, when there is still a reasonable chance of affecting conflict-interaction patterns, and continuing through high school and college. Such an instructional program, however, must be informed by better understanding of the psychological antecedents of rational argumentative discourse.
Teaching competence in rational argumentation is in its infancy, if we mark its beginnings in the critiques of formalism by Toulmin (1959) and Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca (1958/1969). The study of the psychological antecedents of rational argumentative discourse is still struggling to be bom. We hope that the rneta-analytic work reported here will advance that process.