Rhetorical Analysis- “Why Our Memory Fails Us”

The article “Why Our Memory Fails Us,” by Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel J. Simons, uses primarily logos and ethos rhetoric devices to talk about what is seen as the problems from relying on one’s memory. They support their case by starting off their article by discussing how the well know astrophysicist  and host of the TV show “Cosmos,” Neil deGrasse Tyson,   confused two different quotes said by President George W. Bush in his speech to congress after 9/11. Dr. Tyson implied that President Bush was being prejudice towards Islam when he said ‘that in order “to distinguish we from they” — meaning to divide Judeo-Christian Americans from fundamentalist Muslims — Mr. Bush uttered the words “Our God is the God who named the stars.”’ However, “Mr. Bush actually said, “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends,” and he said nothing about the stars. GOOD.

Mr. Bush had indeed once said something like what Dr. Tyson remembered; in 2003 Mr. Bush said, in tribute to the astronauts lost in the Columbia space shuttle explosion,” Dr. Tyson “was fooled by his faith in the accuracy of his own memory” as stated by authors. By using Dr. Tyson as support to their argument, they are exhibiting traits of using logos. Then the article continues to use logos by delving into studies done about people having their memory challenged. For instance, the study done by the National Academy of Sciences convened an expert panel that released in the fall of 2014 “a comprehensive report that recommended procedures to minimize the chances of false memory and mistaken identification, including videotaping police lineups and improving jury instructions,” which Daniel J. Simons served on.

The fact THAT one of the authors served on this panel makes it an example of ethos since it is giving credibility to the writers of the article. Additionally, the tone used in this article is sympathetic since Chabris and Simons continue on to mention that “We should be more understanding of mistakes by others, and credit them when they admit they were wrong. We are all fabulists, and we must all get used to it.” By saying this they are implying that since our memory tends to fail us it would be better to admit fault then cover it with lies.

On another note, the top three comments made on the article for the readers choices focus on specific parts mentioned in the article. While the New York Times (NYT) picks comments focused on the article as a whole by making counterarguments to the article thus showing another angle with which the article could be viewed. This makes comments ranking effective but showing what people would pay more attention to compared to what should actually be seen.


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