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 ” (

Ariane Conrad Hyde (2005-04-01). “Litterbug World”. Alternet. (

6 thoughts on “Appeal to Emotion

  1. Terrible example. Whether the dog will be put down is relevant to whether you let me keep him or not. Appeal to emotion itself doesn’t actually diminish an argument. The appeal to emotion has to be irrelevant or obscure reason.

  2. The implication was that the plea was an appeal to emotion and not actually what would definitely happen to the dog. The dog could find another home. That said, I agree this is not the best example and am open to suggestions for a change. I struggled with examples for this entry because nearly every one I could come up with could more directly be applied to another fallacy. Namely The Fallacy of Relative Privation( And if the argument becomes too outrageous, Non Sequitur. What do you think about the example of the famous Keep America Beautiful ad from 1970(

    • Yeah, I kept finding my alternate examples fit better as Appeal to Nature (it just feels wrong). I think the Keep America Beautiful ad is a great example – I like the idea of using famous examples too.

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