Rhetorical Analysis: Michael Eure – Team 17 – IDS 3309

Thesis Statement: In their New York Times article, “Why Our Memory Fails Us”, psychology professors Christopher F. Chabris and Daniel Simmons build their argument on the problems of relying on one’s memory by using ethos to present real-life studies about the topic, pathos to invoke a connection with the reader, and logos to present logical reasoning behind their argument. (Very good!)

Chabris and Simons use pathos to support their argument by writing that our “flashbulb memories”, those often linked with emotional events, can become “distorted and inaccurate”. This gets the reader to realize that emotions have a strong connection to memories and how they may be remembered inaccurately. Two people in the same situation may remember an event differently if one of them is in trouble, and the other is just watching from a safe distance. The reader now questions their own memories and wonders what really happened. This shows that Chabris and Simons have successfully used pathos to invoke an emotional connection to their writing.

The professors continue their argument through the use of logos by presenting studies and research conducted about memory and how it is affected by our own process of remembering. They provide information about research that tested people on how well they could recall word on a list. The study showed that those that were highly confident in their memory were usually right, but those who gave the wrong words when asked were equally confident in their answers. By providing an experiment conducted by two cognitive psychologists Chabris and Simons create a stronger argument for the reader.

Ethos is also used in their article when Chabris and Simons state that “the National Academy of Sciences report strongly advised courts to rely on initial statements rather than courtroom proclamations…”. This statement backs up their argument that memories can easily morph with time and the ability to recall them exactly is unlikely. Using an outside source as large as the National Academy of Sciences gives their argument far more credibility and gives the reader a source they may trust.

Chabris and Simons construct a rhetorical argument using logos, pathos, ethos and an active tone to connect with the reader in multiple ways. They use a lot of evidence to back their claim but rely on the connection to their readers’ emotions causing them to question their own ability to remember things accurately.

The readers found the top three Readers Picks comments so convincing because they provided logical and credible discussion to the argument in the article. These comments do what Virginia Heffernan, in her article “Comment is King”, says most comments do not do, and that’s reading the article against itself to create a discussion with the argument provided. Although the comment made by Keith Dow is focusing on a personal detail, (insert comma) it still creates discussion by using logos to provide facts on why he holds his position against ex-president George Bush’s intelligence.

The other two comments create a discussion of the overall argument a bit better. Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson uses ethos by giving more information on the argument in which he was included at the beginning of the article, this gives the article more credibility.

The third comment shows the use of pathos when commenter, Jacob Summer, recalls how mistaken memory tends to be attributed to negative experiences but should be forgiven when it is an honest mistake.

Overall very good Michael. Solid writing style, good word choice and sentence structure. Be careful about the word ‘a lot’ try to be specific whenever possible. perhaps ” They use substantial evidence…” Always select the most accurate word that you want to convey what you want to say.