Appeal to Emotion

Appeal_to_Emotion_LargeAn Appeal to Emotion is when someone uses emotional consequences or personal feelings to persuade someone of something.

Just because something feels correct, incorrect, negative,  positive, or invokes “feels” of any kind, does not mean that something is better, correct, wrong, etc. Emotional consequences can obscure facts and lead to irrational conclusions. Politicians use this tactic regularly in debates when giving examples of individuals affected by their or their opponents policies.


In 1971 the organization Keep America Beautiful aired an ad depicting a Native American rowing, riding, and walking among an increasingly filthy urban landscape. From a freeway, a passerby throws some garbage at his feet when then he begins to cry. The ad appeals the audience’s notion of a forgotten and ideal landscape, punctuated by the image of a noble savage heartbroken as his former home is transformed into a modern filthy city. Not only does this ad say nothing specific about the environmental impact of littering, except that it makes Native Americans cry, the ad has been accused of being  a politically motivated diversionary tactic, designed to put the burden of waste disposal on the consumer instead of on the manufacturers(see references below).

Heather Rogers(2006). “Gone Tomorrow: The Hidden Life of Garbage ” (http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Tomorrow-Hidden-Life-Garbage/dp/1595581200)

Ariane Conrad Hyde (2005-04-01). “Litterbug World”. Alternet. (http://www.alternet.org/story/21651/litterbug_world)