In political communication – ancient and modern – it is evident that it is not only facts that convinced groups of people. Rather it is how something is said, how a story is elaborated, how information is illustrated, linked to emotional stories, or proven with examples that determines the reception ... (Show more)
In political communication – ancient and modern – it is evident that it is not only facts that convinced groups of people. Rather it is how something is said, how a story is elaborated, how information is illustrated, linked to emotional stories, or proven with examples that determines the reception and reaction of an audience. Hence, framing influences opinion building and decision-making (Kahneman & Tversky 1981; Nelson, Oxley & Clawson 1997). The importance of such storytelling in political communication was already well known to public speakers in ancient Athenian democracy. Through storytelling, orators offered their audience a framework in which they invited them to make their decision (Spatharas 2020). This ability to reach an audience, keep their interest and make a speech not only appealing but – at least for the day – convincing was crucial, especially in the competitive context of Athenian law courts.
To influence information evaluation processes, applicability and accessibility are crucial cognitive effects of framing (Price & Tewksbury 1997, Lecheler & de Vreese 2019). Applicability is the process of knowledge activation. A public speaker frames the issue at stake in such a way as to activate a specific set of ideas, emotions, and prior knowledge which the individual then applies to process the information received. If successful, the speaker determines how the audience evaluates the issue at stake. Further, once activated, such ideas, emotions or memories retain an activation potential, making them more likely to be used also in subsequent evaluations. This is the accessibility effect. It determines which cognitive elements are – even after a speech is finished – most likely used to evaluate an event or person. Accessibility depends on a speaker's ability to activate knowledge, opinions, values or emotions within his audience, while applicability is strongly dependent on repetition.
In this paper, I show how statesmen in ancient Athenian democracy used framing for their public political speeches and in doing so built on applicability and accessibility effects to stir their audience’s evaluations towards the decision they wished for. I will focus on the Athenian rh?t?r Aeschines and discuss how he used framing to create cohesive stories throughout his speeches. This allows us to analyze how Aeschines used applicability to impact the audience’s evaluation of his main arguments as well as how he deliberately repeated key points throughout a speech to build an accessibility effect. (Show less)