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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)



First Advisor

Donald F. Duns

First Committee Member

Howard L. Runion

Second Committee Member

Gordon G. Zimmerman


William Brigance in his Speech, Its Techniques and Disciplines in a Free Society reports the German psychologist Zillig’s experiment wherein ten pupils were apparently selected at random, placed in front of their classmates, and asked to follow simple instructions, i.e., “Raise your right hands.” The other members of the class were instructed to carefully judge each performing student on his ability to follow directions. In actuality, the selection of the ten students had been determined some weeks prior to the experiment when a secret vote had been conducted among members of the class to identify the “most liked” and “least liked” students. The ten pupils who were “selected at random” were in reality two groups, the five “most liked” and five “least liked” as identified by the votes of their classmates. Shortly before the experiment the five “most liked” students were instructed to behave exactly opposite to the instructions given. So when ordered to lift their right hands the five most popular students elevated their left hands while the “least liked'' group followed the order correctly. A number of similar procedures followed and then the observing students rated the performers of their direction following ability. Even though the five “most liked” students had been 100 percents wrong in their actual behavior, “When class scores were totaled, it was found that the best liked students had been graded higher than the least liked.”

In summary, rhetoricians have recognized that the circumstances of the speech situation tend to highlight the speaker as a person and thus the personal impact (ethod) of the speaker can greatly influence the effect of his remarks upon the audience.

Granting the importance of ethos, any study casting further light on this vital portion of rhetorical theory would be of value to the overall knowledge of public address. The general purpose of the study to follow is to conduct such an investigation. More particularly the following pages will present an attempt to use the theory and method of contemporary personality research in an effort to more fully explain the nature and functions of ethos in an actual speech situation, The remainder of this initial chapter will be given over to a review of rhetorical thought concerning ethos, and examination of five major contributions to the literature of personality theory (specifically that portion of personality theory dealing with the “authoritarian personality”), and a synthesis of these two fields of thought which will lead to the formulation of a hypothesis concerning the nature of ethos and its relation to personality.





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