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Narrative and Political Campaign Rhetoric

Political campaigns include not only information about the candidates’ policy positons but also information about the candidates’ background— their personal narratives. This information helps to position the candidate on a similar level with his or her constituents. Much like the law firm’s advertising described above, this helps make the candidate seem like one who can empathize with the audience to which he or she is trying to appeal. There is an appeal to mirror neurons. Further, images used in such advertising may re-enforce that connection.

If the candidate is vying for a local political office, the candidate attempts to show the voters his or her connection to the people of that district or city. I describe here a political campaign flyer I received from a candidate for local mayoral office, specifically the narrative it offers coupled with the image provided.

The candidate distributed flyers across the city, and this flyer emphasized the candidate’s citizenship and experience in another elected office—the local school board—and lifelong connection with the city.

These attributes make for a narrative emphasizing connection with the community. Further, a photograph of the candidate and his family re-enforce this connection. I provide specific detail of each.

In the flyer the particular candidate lists that he graduated from the local school district and that he married someone from the city, listing his wife’s name and including her maiden name. This is important, because her family is prominent in the city. By stating her last name, the candidate appeals to “lifers;” those who have lived in the city all their life. This would stimulate mirror neurons in an audience, helping them identify with the candidate as one of them, having knowledge of the city’s history, and being concerned about how to advance the city. The candidate also acknowledges his position on the local school board, showing investment in the community and listing his leadership experience as school board president for several years.

The candidate includes a picture of himself, dressed professionally; his wife and their son, both dressed in a sporty look. The picture appears to be outside their home. His wife, in addition to being from a prominent local family, is a teacher in the local school district; and some citizens may have had or have a child with her as their teacher. Including her in the photo helps them make a connection to their own children’s future. The visual image facilitates that connection through the Colavita visual dominance effect. Their son was a student in the local district; so, some people may know of him as well. If he is generally recognized as a good student or good person, seeing him in the flyer further appeals to the audience.

The photograph of the family does several things to stimulate neural processes. Showing the family as one, it stimulates mirror neurons; the audience wants the city to act as a unit like a family. Having the family dress nicely further stimulates mirror neurons; the community in general is recognized as “middle class America,” and the family is represented as such. So, the dress stimulates mirror neurons, re-enforcing the candidate’s connection with the community in general and its identity.

The flyer uses multiple modes (images and print) to re-enforce the candidate’s connection with the community—intermodal redundancy. The candidate also mentions several places/activities where people may have met or interacted with him—prior experiences. The flyer uses multiple modes (images and print) to re-enforce the candidate’s connection with the community—intermodal redundancy. The candidate also mentions several places/activities where people may have met or interacted with him—prior experiences.

Temporal synchronicity and modal redundancy come into play when considering the positioning of the text and image of him and his family. The visual image is shown alongside the text listing his accomplishments. So, the reader sees his image with his family as well as his accomplishments relatively close in proximity and time as he or she reviews the flyer.

The photograph of the family does several things to stimulate neural processes. Showing the family as one, it stimulates mirror neurons; the audience wants the city to act as a unit like a family. Having the family dress nicely further stimulates mirror neurons; the community in general is recognized as “middle class America,” and the family is represented as such. Again, the balance between picture and print-linguistic text shows connections between the model’s attributes in influencing perception.

Conclusion

These descriptions of particular multimodal persuasive messages and neural dynamics associated with them provide an illustration of the kinds of practical applications students and practitioners alike can review to improve their understanding of persuasive narratives.

 
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