Edited by Pascal Fischer and Christoph Schubert
[Journal of Language and Politics 13:2] 2014
► pp. 313–335
Cognitive categorization and prototypicality as persuasive strategies
Presidential rhetoric in the USA
Cognitive categorization is an indispensable instrument for organizing human experience. Owing to the obvious appeal of clear-cut categories in ideological discourse, polarization frequently serves as a strategy of political persuasion. The success of such rhetoric corroborates the allure of dichotomies, although they blatantly contradict the fuzzy nature of cognitive categories. Since prototypicality yields a great cognitive effect but demands only little processing effort, prototypes are particularly convenient in political speeches, where speakers must often get their message across to a wide and heterogeneous audience in a limited time span. Along these lines, the analysis of 32 presidential speeches from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush brings to light how the prototypical enemy or national hero is established. This paper aims to show that political rhetoric does not merely reflect existing categorizations but also has the power to shape and perpetuate them in the minds of the target audience.