Ethos Pathos Logos: Persuasion Techniques To Appeal To Emotion

In the art of persuasion, mastering ethos, pathos, and logos is essential. These classical rhetorical strategies, introduced by Aristotle, help you appeal to your audience’s emotions, credibility, and logic.

Whether you’re crafting a speech, writing an article, or creating a marketing campaign, understanding how to effectively use ethos, pathos, and logos can significantly enhance your ability to influence and connect with your audience on a deeper level.

Let’s explore how these techniques can be your key to compelling persuasion.

Ethos Pathos Logos: Persuasion Techniques To Appeal To Emotion

Persuasion MethodExplaining the MethodHow to Use
EthosBuilds trust by showing credibilityHighlight your qualifications and use professional language
PathosAppeals to emotionsUse stories, vivid examples, and emotional language
LogosUses logic and facts to appealPresent data, statistics, and logical arguments

What Are Ethos, Pathos and Logos?

The easiest way to separate between the three is that Ethos, Pathos, and Logos focus on a particular side of a person. Combined, they form a strong force to persuade people. 

Ethos

Ethos is used when a person relies on their credibility or character when making an appeal or an argument. 

Think about how Steve Jobs introduced himself at Stanford, detailing his journey with NeXT and Pixar. By highlighting his successful ventures, he used ethos to make the audience believe in his authority and expertise.

When an author uses ethos, they are leveraging their credentials to gain trust. This can be seen in political speeches, where leaders often cite their experiences to bolster their arguments.

Pathos

Pathos is all about emotions. It’s the mode of persuasion that aims to make the audience feel, instead of thinking of something.

In Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, he vividly describes the struggles and hopes of the people. His words evoke powerful emotions, from empathy to outrage.

Pathos can make the audience feel the urgency or importance of an issue, as seen in many charity appeals that use heart-wrenching images and stories to arouse compassion and spur action.

Logos

Logos is the appeal to logic and reason. It involves presenting a case and convince the audience by using: 

  • facts,
  • statistics, and
  • rational arguments.

An example of this is Al Gore’s speeches on climate change, where he presents data and scientific evidence to support his claims.

By using logos, you provide a solid foundation for your argument, making it difficult for the audience to refute your points. The use of logical reasoning and factual evidence is crucial for establishing a strong argument.

Why Are Ethos, Pathos and Logos Effective?

Aristotle’s three modes of persuasion—ethos, pathos, and logos are effective in persuading people, especially when combined. Here are a couple of ways they do this:

Ethos Builds Trust

Ethos builds trust. When you use ethos, you appeal to the audience’s perception of your character.

Think of Steve Jobs at Stanford, sharing his journey with NeXT and Pixar. He established his credibility by highlighting his success in creating the first computer animated feature film and the technology developed at NeXT, which is at the heart of Apple’s current renaissance.

This use of ethos makes the audience more likely to trust and believe in the speaker’s message.

Pathos Evokes Emotions

Pathos evokes emotions. Pathos, the appeal to emotion, taps into the audience’s feelings, making the message more relatable and impactful. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a prime example.

His words about freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality make the audience feel the urgency and importance of civil rights.

By using pathos, speakers can arouse both positive and negative emotions, driving their audience to action.

Logos Appeal To Logic & Reason

Logos provides logic and reason. Logos, the appeal to logic, involves presenting facts, statistics, and a logical argument.

Al Gore’s speeches on climate change effectively use logos by providing factual evidence and scientific data.

When an audience is presented with a strong logical argument, it becomes difficult to refute the speaker’s point. The use of logos creates a solid foundation for the argument, making it more persuasive.

Ethos Pathos & Logos Work Great Together

Ethos and pathos together create a compelling narrative. When combined, ethos and pathos can be particularly powerful.

Rhetorical appeals adapt to the audience. One of the strengths of using ethos, pathos, and logos is their flexibility. Depending on the audience and context, a speaker can adjust their use of these appeals to be more effective. 

A presenter at a scientific conference might rely heavily on logos to appeal to the audience’s logical reasoning, while a political leader might use pathos to rally support during a campaign. This adaptability makes the three modes of persuasion essential tools for any communicator.

The effectiveness of ethos, pathos, and logos in persuasion lies in their ability to:

  • build trust,
  • evoke emotions,
  • provide logical reasoning,
  • create compelling narratives, and
  • adapt to different audiences.

By mastering these rhetorical strategies, you can become a more persuasive and impactful communicator.

How To Recognise Ethos, Pathos and Logos in Content?

Recognising these rhetorical appeals in content involves looking for specific elements:

How To Recognise Ethos

Look for references to the speaker’s qualifications, experience, or character. When an author mentions their background or uses industry-specific jargon correctly, they are using ethos.

For example, a military officer in full uniform speaking about national security is leveraging their ethos.

In the video below, Admiral William McRaven’s worn his military uniform during his commencement speech to show his ethos, and be more persuasive to his audience – university graduates.

How To Recognise Pathos

Identify emotionally charged language or stories that aim to make the audience feel emotions – these can be positive, or negative emotions, depending on the intention of the presenter.

Descriptions of personal struggles, vivid imagery, or narratives that tap into universal human experiences are signs of pathos.

Advertisements often use this technique by showing happy families or sad animals to elicit emotional responses. One example is Nike:

How To Recognise Logos

Spot logical arguments supported by data, statistics, and factual evidence. When an author uses charts, graphs, or detailed analysis, they are relying on logos.

This mode of persuasion focuses on the logical structure of the argument and the credibility of the evidence. You are likely to see Logos in practice in university or corporate presentations, or videos as simple as ‘X reasons to Y’:

Understanding how to recognise ethos, pathos, and logos helps you critically evaluate content. It allows you to see beyond the surface and understand the underlying strategies used to persuade you. 

When you encounter a persuasive piece, ask yourself these questions to dissect their work: 

  • How is the author using their character to build trust?
  • What emotions are they trying to evoke?
  • What logical evidence are they presenting?

How To Use Ethos, Pathos and Logos In Your Work?

Here’s how you can use ethos, pathos, and logos in your work.

Ethos: Establishing Credibility

Using ethos means leveraging your character and credentials to gain your audience’s trust. When you use ethos, you present yourself as an authority on the subject.

If you are giving a presentation on technology trends, mentioning your years of experience in the tech industry and any relevant projects you’ve worked on can establish your credibility.

Steve Jobs effectively used ethos in his Stanford commencement address by detailing his journey with Apple and Pixar.

His success stories, including how Pixar went on to create the first computer animated feature film, reinforced his authority and made his advice more impactful.

To use ethos in your work, always highlight your:

  • qualifications,
  • experience, and
  • achievements.

Use correct grammar and syntax to present a polished, professional image. Your audience is more likely to believe and respect a well-spoken, knowledgeable communicator.

Pathos: Evoking Emotions

Pathos is about appealing to your audience’s emotions. This can make your message more relatable and memorable.

In advertising, pathos is often used to evoke emotions like happiness, fear, or sympathy. An ad campaign for a charity might show emotional images of people in need to arouse empathy and encourage donations.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech is a classic example of using pathos. He evoked strong emotions by describing the great trials and tribulations faced by African Americans, making his call for justice more compelling.

In your work, connect with your audience by sharing emotional things, using:

  • vivid examples,
  • stories, and
  • meaningful language.

When you are writing a report, delivering a speech, or creating a marketing campaign, incorporating pathos can make your message resonate on a deeper level.

Be mindful of the emotions you want to evoke, and use language that will effectively arouse those feelings.

Logos: Using Logic and Reason

Logos relies on logic and reason to persuade your audience. This involves using facts, statistics, and logical arguments to support your message.

In a business proposal, you might present data and financial projections to show the potential success of a new project. 

To use logos in your work, focus on:

  • presenting clear, logical arguments supported by credible evidence.
  • Use statistics that support your points, and
  • make sure your reasoning is sound.

Avoid logical fallacies, as they can undermine your argument and make you appear untrustworthy.

Combining Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

The most persuasive pieces often combine ethos, pathos, and logos. For example, in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” Antony uses all three to persuade the crowd.

He establishes his ethos by reminding them of his close relationship with Caesar, evokes pathos by showing Caesar’s wounds and describing his virtues, and uses logos to argue against Brutus’s claims.

In your work, consider how you can blend these rhetorical appeals. For example, if you are presenting a new business strategy, you might:

  • Use ethos by sharing your relevant experience and successes.
  • Use pathos by telling a compelling story about how the strategy will positively impact employees and customers.
  • Use logos by presenting data and logical arguments to demonstrate the strategy’s potential for success.

By effectively using ethos, pathos, and logos, you can create a well-rounded and persuasive argument.

Your audience will not only believe in your credibility but also feel emotionally connected to your message and be convinced by the logical reasoning behind it. 

Whether you are writing, speaking, or presenting, mastering these rhetorical strategies will enhance your ability to persuade and engage your audience.

Are There Other Methods Than Ethos, Pathos and Logos?

Beyond ethos, pathos, and logos, there are other methods of persuasion that can be equally effective – Kairos, Telos, and Mythos.

Kairos

One notable method is kairos, which involves the timing and appropriateness of an argument.

A well-timed message can have a greater impact, leveraging the current context or mood of the audience to enhance persuasiveness.

One good example is when you present a call for environmental action during a natural disaster – this will likely be more compelling.

Telos

Another method is telos, which refers to the purpose or goal of the communication. Understanding and clearly communicating the purpose can align the audience’s values and beliefs with the intended message, making it more persuasive. 

A motivational speech aimed at students, rather than to retirees should focus on inspiring them towards their future goals.

Mythos

Mythos, the appeal to cultural values and narratives, is also powerful. This method taps into shared stories, traditions, and beliefs, making the argument resonate on a cultural level.

Politicians often use mythos by referencing national history or cultural myths to unite and inspire people.

Ethos Pathos Logos – Three Modes Of Persuasion

Mastering ethos, pathos, and logos equips you with powerful tools to connect with and persuade your audience.

By appealing to their emotions, establishing your credibility, and presenting logical arguments, you can create compelling messages that resonate on multiple levels. Whether in speeches, writing, or marketing, these techniques help you influence and engage effectively.

Embrace these classical rhetorical strategies to enhance your communication and leave a lasting impact on your audience.

The Author

Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.