Marco Guerini |
Istituto per la Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica, Trento
In this paper we analyse the concepts of Promise (P) and Threat (T) and their inter-relations. Our objective is to study the uses of P and T in persuasion and to shed some light on related concepts such as requesting, ordering, giving prizes, punishing, etc. First, we show that some Ps and Ts are used for persuasion and some are conditional in nature. Using general definitions of P and T (along with the concepts of speech act and social commitment) and a broad notion of persuasion, four different typologies of P and T are introduced. They are distinguished on their conditional/non-conditional dimension and on their influencing/non-influencing aim. We then focus on Conditional Influencing Ps and Ts (CIPs and CITs) used in persuasion. CIPs and CITs are incentive-based influencing actions rooted on dependence and power relations. Moreover, in the CIP and CIT classes the concepts of threat and promise are closely connected: the CIP is always (though often covertly) accompanied by a CIT (“if you do not do your homework I will not take you to the cinema”), and vice versa. Next, we discuss the issue of why CIPs and CITs are credible. We also identify — beyond their surface, rhetorical form — a deeper difference: a ‘substantial’ threat consisting in a choice between two losses compared with a ‘substantial’ promise where the choice is between a gain and a missed-gain. In the article we present a pre-formal model as a basis for a computational treatment of these concepts.
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