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The University of Southampton
EconomicsPart of Economic, Social and Political Science

1310 Effective Persuasion (Y. Chen)

Author: Ying Chen (Arizona State University) and Wojciech Olszewski (Northwestern University)

Paper number: 1310

Do elementary statistics or equilibrium theory deliver any rules of thumb regarding how we should argue in debates? We suggest a framework for normative analysis of debates. In our framework, each discussant wants the audience to believe that the actual state coincides with the discussant’s favorite state. We show that if the discussants’ payoff functions in the audience’s posterior are concave above the prior, convex below the prior, and exhibit some form of loss aversion, then the discussant who begins the debate should first present weaker arguments rather than stronger arguments, and the discussant who speaks second should respond with weak arguments to weak arguments, and with strong arguments to strong arguments. We derive similar rules of thumb regarding the choice between presenting evidence that is independent of the opponent’s evidence versus presenting evidence that is potentially correlated.

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