Critical Thinking

Chapter 4: Glossary

This glossary follows the organization of the textbook and other areas of this Web site and contains short definitions for all the important terms and concepts from the chapter. You will also find hyperlinks to Websites relevant to the study of these terms and concepts. You should employ good critical thinking when evaluating the merit of any information you find on the World Wide Web, including what you find by following these links.

Nonargumentative persuasion. The influence that a claim may have above and beyond the literal meanings of the words in it.  Nonargumentative persuasion works in the absence of explicit reasons for accepting a claim; it often involves emotive force.

Euphemism.  A slanter which replaces one expression with another that carries a more positive association than the original.

  • The E Word - 96.09:  An article on the subject by Cullen Murphy in the Atlantic Monthly.

Dysphemism. A slanter which replaces one expression with another that carries a more negative association than the original.

Persuasive comparison. A persuasive comparison slants by linking our feelings about a thing to the thing we compare it to: "He had a laugh like an old car trying to start."

Persuasive definition. A definition that uses loaded language while ostensibly trying to clarify a term: "Animals are our fellow conscious beings."

Persuasive explanation. An explanation that uses loaded language while pretending merely to tell the reason for an event: "She smiled at you so she'd have an edge when you hand out raises."

Stereotype.  A popularly held image of a group that rests on little or no evidence.  Stereotypes are slanters in that they invoke emotional associations, usually negative ones, to a person or thing being described.

  • "Stereotype" entry at Short entry on the topic that mentions who introduced the term. 

  • Stereotype:  Interesting site created by two girls from Florida, Kelly and Wedgie, who say about the site "At first it was mostly for entertainment and a continuously growing curiosity about stereotypes in our society today.  As we researched more and more we found the project had the potential to be really interesting, not just to us, but to others as well.  We've kind of combined research on an important topic in social psychology with the creativity of all those who are willing to help out." 

  • Stereotypes:  Discussion of the topic by the International Online Training Program on Intractable Conflict at the Conflict Research Consortium, University of Colorado.

Innuendo:  An innuendo is a slanter that works by implying what it does not actually say: "Far be it from me to call my opponent a liar."

Loaded question.  A question that rests on unwarranted or unjustified assumptions. In addition, the answer to a loaded question will not address the assumption.  For instance, a "No" answer to the question "Are you still illiterate?" does  not challenge the assumption that the person had been illiterate.

Weasler.  A type of slanter that attempts to shield a claim from criticism by qualifying it.  Words like "perhaps" and "possibly," and qualifying phrases like "as far as we know" and "within reasonable limits" most commonly signal the work of weaslers.

Downplayer.  A type of slanter employed to make something seem less important that it actually is: "Evolution is merely a theory."

Proof surrogate.  This type of slanter works by alleging that proof for a claim exists without actually offering the proof. 

Hyperbole.  Hyperbole means exaggeration, especially when inappropriate or unfettered.

Slanters.  Words or phrases that manipulate their emotive force to encourage us to take a certain perspective on some subject.  Slanters may not mislead us into falsehood, they are, rather, characterized by their ability to say more than the word's literal meaning.

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