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JACK, Jordyn & APPLEBAUM, L. Gregory

Special Issue 2010, 40:5, pages 411 - 437

 "This is Your Brain on Rhetoric": Research Directions for Neurorhetorics

Abstract: Neuroscience research findings yield fascinating new insights into human cognition and communication. Rhetoricians may be attracted to neuroscience research that uses imaging tools (such as fMRI), to draw inferences about rhetorical concepts, such as emotion, reason, or empathy. Yet this interdisciplinary effort poses challenges to rhetorical scholars. Accordingly, research in neurorhetorics should be two-sided: not only should researchers question the neuroscience of rhetoric (the brain functions related to persuasion and argument), but they should also inquire into the rhetoric of neuroscience (how neuroscience research findings are framed rhetorically). This two-sided approach can help rhetoric scholars to use neuroscience insights in a responsible manner, minimizing analytical pitfalls. These two approaches can be combined to examine neuroscience discussions about methodology, research and emotion, and studies of autism and empathy with a rhetorical as well as scientific lens. Such an approach yields productive insights into rhetoric while minimizing potential pitfalls of interdisciplinary work.