Having illustrated several examples of the application of neuroscientific analysis to a review of multimodal persuasive rhetoric, I conclude with this chapter in which I identify implications for integrating this kind of analysis into education and business. I have alluded to certain kinds of multimodal persuasive rhetoric with each chapter, but I make connections between the concepts described earlier and application explicit here. I do that because scholarship recognizes the value of making information explicit in instructional capacities. This is the first implication of implementing these concepts into instructions and training—explicit instruction of neuroscientific concepts in pedagogy and training of multimodal persuasive messages.
Explicit Versus Implicit Instruction
Columb (2010) acknowledges that in writing courses explicit teaching is “intended to bring about identifiable effects on qualities, features or other aspects of writing” (slide 6). He summarizes arguments against explicit teaching in writing courses as indicating that writing does not involve conscious processes and, therefore, writing is learned through subconscious processes (slide 6). However, he challenges this by explaining that parts of writing are consciously understood, including planning, drafting, and revising (slide 7). He also acknowledges that “nonconscious processes can be influenced by consciously created dispositions”; that is, if one is aware that a particular rhetorical strategy can work in a given situation, he or she will consciously apply it (slide 8).
Several studies find differences between explicit instruction, implicit instruction, and learning (see, for example, Ziemer-Andrews, 2007; Morrison, Bachman, and McDonald-Conner, 2005; and Leblanc and Lally, 1998). They find that students learn complex topics better when they receive explicit instruction in that topic, while there seems to be little statistically significant difference in learning simple topics relative to either approach.
For example, I detailed an example of connections between neuroscience and narrative in Chapter 5. While narrative is a popular genre for helping students develop as writers, Rentz (1992) observes that it is difficult to distinguish narrative from many other forms of discourse because various elements of narrative occur in other genres as well. In each of the messages I provided there was some kind of narrative involved. In most cases here it was part of an effort to elicit mirror neurons toward helping the audience perceive a shared experience or emotion with the speaker.
Rentz states, “we understand much, if not all, of our experience in narrative form, so that even those things we write that do not take the shape of narrative have been distilled from our original narrative-like understanding of what we are writing about” (p. 299). While narrative itself is not persuasive in nature, it can be used within persuasive messages. Rentz distinguishes narrative from argument by characterizing narrative as concerned with the particular instead of with generalizations, holistic rather than a composite of different parts, and providing a quality of reflection (p. 297). Narrative can be used simply to report information; however, it can also function within persuasion, as illustrated with the examples in Chapter 5.
The prevalence of narrative in examples of professional writing found in textbooks echoes its uses in practice. Though personal narratives engage students in writing about a topic with which they are intimately familiar, professional narratives tend to integrate professional discourses and an understanding of how professionals in a given field think about a phenomenon. However, the law firm advertising example I used above shows an effort to address a general public audience. Including explicit instruction in narrative and neural dynamics associated with it in business writing pedagogy and in textbooks will help students refine those skills and understand how they are used in the workplace.
In technical writing and business writing pedagogy, students learn various forms of professional writing—correspondence, report writing, proposals, resumes, and manuals—that integrate forms of narrative. Also, as they review professionals’ writing, students come to learn discipline-specific discourse and practice it as well in their own writing on assignments and exercises. In the next section, I offer suggestions to help textbook authors and instructors integrate explicit instruction in it. I also suggest further research regarding the impact that such instruction may have on learning and practicing narrative skills.