Causal and Analogical Reasoning: Impact on Public Speaking

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  • 0:00 Public Speaking
  • 0:54 Causal Reasoning
  • 3:11 Analogical Reasoning
  • 4:52 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Causal and analogical reasoning are often confused and sometimes difficult to understand. In this lesson, you will learn the differences between the two types of reasoning and the way each of them is used in public speaking.

Public Speaking

Kaleed and his friend Lou are in a public speaking class together. They are preparing to debate on opposite sides of several important issues in that class, and they are trying to put together their speeches now. One of the major reasons for public speaking is to persuade others. For example, politicians might use speeches to persuade others to believe as they do, or to vote for them. Non-politicians, likewise, might use public speaking to convince others to see their point of view on an issue.

In public speaking, there are many different types of reasoning that speakers can use to make their case. Two specific types of reasoning often used in persuasive speaking are causal and analogical. To help Kaleed and Lou prepare for their debate, let's look at each of these in turn.

Causal Reasoning

Last year, Lou was walking on a sidewalk. There was a patch of ice on the sidewalk and she fell and broke her arm. Now when she tells the story, Lou says that she broke her arm because there was ice on the sidewalk. Lou is demonstrating causal reasoning, or analysis that seeks to establish a cause and effect relationship between two things. When Lou says that she broke her arm because of the ice, she's establishing cause and effect. The ice was there and that's the cause. She fell and broke her arm, which is the effect. Her use of the word 'because' is the clue here that she's using causal reasoning.

In public speaking, persuaders often use causal reasoning to bolster their claim that their particular solution is the right one. Questions about policy are often discussed using causal reasoning. For example, when Lou and Kaleed debate in class about whether the town's new mayor is doing a good job, Lou says that she is doing a good job. After all, the new mayor took office last year and the economy is doing better. Lou says that the economy is doing better because the new mayor took office.

But Kaleed disagrees. He points out two major problems with Lou's argument. First, she might be committing a fallacy of false cause, which involves assuming one thing causes another. Kaleed argues that the economy might have improved whether the mayor took office or not. He argues that assuming that the mayor caused the improving economy is a fallacy of false cause. But Lou counters Kaleed with the fact that the new mayor lowered taxes. She says that's why the economy is doing better.

Still, Kaleed isn't convinced. He thinks she might be making another error in reasoning that is common in causal reasoning, assuming only one cause. Many times, there are several causes of something. For example, perhaps the economy is getting better because of the tax policy, but perhaps it's also due to low inflation, high employment, low gas prices, or another reason. Many public speakers like Lou focus in on one cause when there are actually many causes.

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