Rhetoric: Pathos

Pathos refers to the emotion or passion a writer evokes in a reader. It involves stirring people up enough to get them to do or believe something. Aristotle didn't much like this form of persuasion. "The arousing of prejudice, pity, anger, and similar emotions has nothing to do with the essential facts, but is merely a personal appeal to the [wo]man who is judging the case." Advertisers and politicians often revert to pathos because it is the only way you will get somebody to put down the remote, get up of the coach, and do something.

Advertisers or writers can appeal to higher emotions like our belief in fairness and justice, love, or pity; or they can appeal to our lower emotions like greed, lust, revenge, avarice, and jealousy.

Even if you're not a politician or advertiser, think about how you might use pathos in your everyday career to persuade your boss or coworkers to believe or do something you think is important. When is it appropriate to use emotion in the workplace?

Watch this McDonald's commercial aimed at children--you really don't need to know Spanish to understand the appeal:

How is McDonald's using pathos in this commercial? Think of the baser emotions. Think about going to the grocery store with your mom as a little kid. What were you searching for in a cereal, great taste, or the prize inside the package?

Do you think this is an effective commercial? Why or why not?


  1. McDonald's using pathos in this commercial because in the beginning it shows how excited the kids are when they see the Shrek Cups and even their reactions after the party and the mess in the living room, the family were surprised and curious. As a child, when I would go to the grocery store I would search for things that were colorful or cool. Therefore, it was usually a cereal that was cool looking or even with a prize inside. I think this commercial was effective because it was amusing and creative.

  2. Using emotions to get what you want is an almost natural thing for us to do as human beings. In the workplace we can use pathos to maybe get out of work early. For example one might tell their boss that their child has been left at school and the father can't get out of work to pick them up. Although this is a white lie it may be effective if your boss has a child as well and he or she can relate to the feeling of making sure your child is taken care of no matter what. Over all It is appropriate to use pathos in a working environment when it is beneficial to the business. In the Mcdonald's commercial it shows children that eating at Mcdonald's will make you happy and this reels children into wanting to eat unhealthy food. This goes for cereal as well. The animations on cereal boxes do a great job of grabbing children's attention in order to gain consumers of their product. The emotional appeal is great for business because it makes children believe it is magical eating this cereal full of sugars and fat.

  3. I feel like this isn't an effective commercial because it puts a motivating scenery in the foreground to cover for the negative pathological message in the background of this advertisement. Supposedly it is saying that if you collect the cups (which I do not doubt they are little 6 oz. cups by the way, BIG rip off on McD's behalf just saying) you will feel like you are having a party with Shrek and his buddies. In reality, it is just advertising and persuading you to buy the cups and drink from them, no party included unless you are willing to spend your piggy bank savings worth of Sunday allowances on a crappy 3-hour party with a cheap cake from your neighborhood market and unnecessary amounts of disposable Shrek party favors and possibly a Shrek piñata too. Most of infant and grade school-age targeted advertising uses the idea of a party with their favorite characters coming to life precisely because they know that the kids have plenty of innocence to be so gullible to believe things like this, and because parents do not want to have to deal with the constant whining and fussiness of the dependents on their taxes, they just give in. It is effective strategizing, but bad advertising in my opinion.

  4. This commercial is actually really effective towards to kids only. Kids get so excited over kids meals because of the toys that it comes with and for those who love Shrek; of course they would want to beg their parents to go to McDonalds for the cup. Since they also feature 4 different kinds of cups, it would make kids want to collect all of them. When I was younger, my parents would usually pick out the cereal for me. But if I would come across a cereal box that had a cool prize in it, I would immediately beg my parents to get it because I mostly wanted it for the prize. It is appropriate to use emotional appeal because that is how businesses gain more consumers. All they want to do is sell their product and there is no better way to do that than to have kids involved.

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