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Home arrow Marketing arrow The Neuroscience of Multimodal Persuasive Messages: Persuading the Brain

Suggestions for Explicit Instruction of Narrative and Neurorhetoric of It

Students need the opportunity to hone skills associated with developing effective narratives in coursework. Including explicit instruction in narrative, including neural contents associated with it, in technical writing and business writing pedagogy and in textbooks used in these classes will help students refine those skills and understand how to use them in the workplace.

Authors of business writing and technical writing textbooks can accomplish this explicit inclusion of narrative by:

  • 1 Integrating explicit references to narrative and neural responses in examples of persuasive multimodal messages, and
  • 2 Integrating references to attributes of narratives in sections explaining style components and distinguishing narratives from more formal, objective forms of reporting information, and
  • 3 Showing examples of narrative-style persuasive messages and discussing rhetorical and neural attributes, much as I have done in this book.

Teachers can encourage students to think about rhetorical and neural attributes of their own persuasive messages within grading rubrics and reflection. A grading rubric for a multimodal persuasive assignment, for example, might include a category specifically listing possible neural responses associated with mirror neurons and reward neurons.

Table 12.1 is an example rubric that could be used for assessing both multimodal instructional material and multimodal persuasive material. It lists seven different categories based on the model, totaling 21 points. It also offers a holistic interpretation of the assessment.

As stated before, cognition relative to a persuasive message would be equivalent to perception. So, in an instructional message, cognition pertains to how well the audience would understand the new concept/task and be able to learn the concept/task; in a persuasive message the cognition row would characterize how well the product affects perception generally toward the desired perception and related action.

Also, many faculty encourage students to reflect on their composing process, especially within multimodal assignments. Such reflections can include description of how the student perceives their message stimulates certain neurons in addition to integrating the other rhetorical attributes of the model provided in this book that influence the perceived effectiveness of the message. Such a narrative could be used to provide the student’s perception of the product’s effectiveness relative to the model and rubric. That narrative may help the teacher/trainer assess the product as well.

Business consultants and trainers can use these ideas as well in their training in corporate settings. For example, one activity could encourage attendees to consider specific rhetorical principles and neural responses to a given message as they develop a marketing tool for a given product or service their company offers.

Very Effective (3 points)

Medium/media used [considering affordances/constraints of the tool used to deliver the message; how effective is that tool/ those tools for the message and audience ?]

Narrative [how well does the

message convey the desired action and consider the audience’s perspective?]

Visual Dominance [Is a

visualization of the object/subject provided or easy to make from the information? Is an image of the speaker/presenter provided; if so, what impression does it make?]

Modal-Attention Filtering [How effectively do modes help to affect attention? How many modes are used—enough/too much/ not enough—and do they help to focus attention?]

Temporal Synchronicity [how effectively are the modes timed to allow appropriate filtering of information and cognition?]

Moderately Effective (2 points)

Ineffective (1 point)

Intermodal Redundancy [how effectively do the modes reenforce each other or provide information to enhance the message in different ways?]

Prior Experience: Mirror Neurons [how effectively does the creator use attributes of the audience’s prior experiences to elicit mirroring dynamics: e.g.: values about status/groups of people/ representations of dress?]

Prior Experience: Reward Neurons [how effectively does the creator use attributes of the audience’s prior experiences that would elicit reward neurons: e.g.; values/ motivations/goals]

Cognition [holistic interpretation: how effectively does the product help the audience understand what the message is and what the audience should do?]

Score above 18:

If most criteria are assessed as very effective, it suggests that the product is very good at facilitating cognition of the desired action and very persuasive.

Score between 15 and 18:

If most criteria are assessed as moderately effective, it suggests that some items could be improved to make it a better product. The audience may not understand the desired action or not be as moved to act as desired as it otherwise could be if information were presented differently.

Score below 15:

If most criteria are assessed as ineffective, it suggests that several items need to be improved upon.

The audience is not likely to be moved toward action because the product does not engage the audience well or facilitate understanding of the desired action well.

Professionals tend to have a dress code to which they conform for work settings, whether that dress code is explicitly announced by a company or the professional implicitly assigns one to him or herself, depending on their profession. Such a dress code may be characterized as “business formal” or “business casual;” in some companies, there may even be a “dress down Friday” when employees can wear generally casual dress— polo shirt and jeans, for example. I detailed examples of the application of dress code as part of multimodal rhetoric in certain persuasive messages in Chapter 6. It is a good idea to encourage students and professionals to consider a dress code as they prepare to give presentations or attend certain meetings.

This practice is typical in almost any educational setting requiring an oral presentation; a class may have a required dress code to adhere to as part of the presentations; each presenter must dress professionally, and this will be part of the grade for their presentation. Teachers who integrate presentation into their courses can encourage students to research dress codes within their major area of study. What kind of dress is expected of marketing managers, for example? What kind of dress is a public relations professional expected to have when meeting clients? Engage students with expectations of professionals within their field through Internet research or interviews with such professionals.

Further, instructors can integrate a reflective exercise in the course in which students explicitly connect their dress for a particular presentation to the expectations of the audience and rhetoric associated with it. In Chapter 6 I mentioned the example of the graduating student who wore a polo shirt and sporty pants to an interview, violating the interviewer’s expectations of professionalism. If one wears an informal outfit when giving a presentation to a certain group of people that expects more professional dress, how does that impact the general rhetoric of the presentation’s message?

Teachers and trainers alike can show video of people in different dress making presentations and have students/trainees consider for what audiences each dress is best suited for the particular presentation. Much as politicians dress down when making “folksy” campaign visits to a local restaurant show their connection with “common folk,” certain audiences may find a dressed down look more appealing for a given persuasive message than a more formal look.

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