Lay perceptions of argument quality

Thomas Martin Huebner


The purpose of this study is to answer two research questions. The first question aims to discover what attributes compose a quality argument and the second attempts to uncover the way people cognitively structure their lay perceptions about the attributes of argument quality. More specifically, the first research question attempts to develop a typology, using lay methodology, of argument quality. In addition to developing the typology, which consists of 49 different arguments, the analysis suggests that, although there are some argument types considered uniquely strong or weak, that others are context-reliant. The second research question seeks, using a multidimensional scaling procedure validated by a regression analysis, to determine the presence of underlying cognitive structures that guide argument usage. Subsequently, three dimensions of arguments were uncovered along with some evidence for the labeling of those dimensions as Control, Backing , and Focus of Benefit . The Control dimension suggests that arguments fall on the continuum between control and no control . The Backing dimension includes argument types that are backed either by emotional evidence or rational evidence, and the Focus of Benefit dimension considers that arguments are focused on benefiting either self or others . Finally, with the objective of determining the unique attributes of the context in which the argument occurs, each of the four scenarios was examined using a cluster analysis.