Assignment 1: Rhetorical Analysis

[Analyze rather than summarize. How do the authors use the rhetorical triangle to convince the reader and how do they support their arguments?] Thesis: Memories are fallible. Recollection of our memories are subject to the test of time, distortion, and personal bias. Because of the inherent failures in the recollection of our memories we should take in to account the potential fallibility of our own memories in our daily experiences.

Few would argue that Neil Degrasse Tyson; a famed astrophysicist, George W Bush; the 43rd president of the United States, and Hillary Rodham Clinton; former first lady and Secretary State of the United States, are not brilliant individuals in their respective fields. On the contrary, in most scenarios these three individuals would be considered an authority of credibility. In “Why Our Memories Fail Us” Simmons and Chabris choose three highly credible individuals, establish their trustworthiness and credibility, and proceed to break down the reliability of their testimonies with facts, science, and logical reasoning. While the rhetorical appeal used throughout the article contains a heavy dose of logos, they use an interesting  rhetorical appeal by establishing and dismantling the credibility of these distinguished individuals. This technique is almost a reverse form of ethos. The authors establish credibility by breaking down the credibility of others.  [good point]

The premise of the article is that memories are fallible, recollection of events are subject to the test of time, distortion, and personal bias. There are two major forms of memory failure. One is remembering that which has not happened and the other is forgetting something that has. Most commonly we suffer from the first failure. We rarely believe, if ever, that a perfectly sane individual could remember a scenario that never happened. However, Simmons and Chabris show us that this is not necessarily the case and distorted memory of previous events is perfectly normal.[Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] The authors use three events where these individuals blatantly, and factually misrepresented the actual course of events. These individuals when confronted with their misrepresentation of the events, even when shown factual evidence of their mistake, all doubled down and swore that their memories were correct. The distortions in their memory were not even simple miss recollection of certain facts, but blatant factual distortions. One individual even remembered being under sniper fire, when not even a single shot fired or similar sound occurred. [Analyze rather than summarize. How do the authors use the rhetorical triangle to convince the reader and how do they support their arguments?] These stories are used to show us that we can all be fooled by faith in the accuracy of our memories. The article establishes that overconfidence in our memories is an unconscious bias we must all be aware of. The article proceeds to show how public policy has taken these biases into account, so we should too. The article explains how courts, over the years, have slowly moved from relying solely on eyewitness testimonies for convictions. This point is then reinforced by sociological and scientific studies, again proving the fallibility of memories. Simmons and Chabris, make a compelling argument that we should factor in the personal bias of our memories when confronted decisions or recollection of our past.

The comments at the end of the article try to elaborate or contradict the points in the article. Ironically the top comment in the NYT picks and Readers picks is by Neil Degrasse Tyson himself. Tyson reinforces certain points in the article, by confirming that the lowest form of evidence in the court of science is eyewitness testimony. Tyson’s ability to acknowledge his mistake, in my opinion reinforces the accuracy and credibility of the article. [Separate topic sentences with paragraphs.] Another comment attempts to attack the article by clamming that George W Bush is in fact not an intellectual person. The commenter proceeds to share different statements to apparently reinforce the point of George Bush not being an intelligent individual. This argument is a straw man, because the commenter is attacking a point that the article is not trying to make. The Article is describing the fallibility of our memories, Bush’s intellectual acumen is not central to the authors point. [How do the commenters use the rhetorical triangle to make their points?] 


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