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  • Print publication year: 2015
  • Online publication date: November 2015

2 - Practical Reasoning in Health Product Ads


The conclusion of Chapter 1 was that even though practical reasoning can sometimes be a solitary form of reasoning – for example, where an agent needs to figure out how to fix a flat tire on his car – there are many other cases where a rational agent needs to communicate with other agents in order to move forward with intelligent practical reasoning. As noted in the conclusion of Chapter 1, in such cases an intelligent agent may need to deliberate with other agents on how to achieve shared goals. It may also need to collect information from them, or even to negotiate with them on how to divide up responsibility for the actions needed for them to reason together to achieve their common goal. In the subsequent chapters we will examine some complex cases of group deliberations by agents collaboratively using practical reasoning. In Chapter 2 we will start with some simpler cases in which one agent is interacting with another and is using practical reasoning to try to persuade the other to carry out a designated action.

In this chapter, several illustrative examples of direct-to-consumer health product advertisements that exemplify practical reasoning are analyzed using argumentation methods, and some conclusions about the analyses are drawn. The ads studied include commercials for pharmaceuticals, as well as ads for other medications, including health foods, and treatments and devices that purport to have health benefits. It is shown that they use arguments of a kind that fit the argumentation scheme for practical reasoning. The findings are interesting for many reasons. They can be applied both to the crafting of the ads and to the enhancement of critical thinking skills for intelligent consumers. They are also applicable to recent efforts to use computational techniques to assist consumer health informatics to inform consumers and improve health care. Most interestingly, they suggest that the central persuasion structure of the argumentation in health care ads is that of practical reasoning. Use of practical reasoning of this sort as argumentation is commonly called the problem-solution strategy in advertising.

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