FEATURE4 February 2016

The persuasion principle

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Features Impact North America Public Sector

Writing and delivering a powerful speech is an art form. Could a scientific approach to speechwriting ever be as effective? 

Some political speeches are ingrained in our minds, either by the significance of the occasion on which they were delivered, the eloquence of the speaker, or both. There’s something about a rousing speech that can stir emotions in a seemingly indefinable way.

But Nick Beauchamp, an assistant professor at Northeastern University’s Department of Political Science, in Boston, USA, believes he may have found a way to define the indefinable. He has developed an algorithm that, he claims, can build more compelling, convincing political speeches.

Beauchamp initially set out to get a better understanding of what makes people support or oppose issues by breaking down the political discourse around those issues, and working out which elements are likely to be welcomed or rejected by the public.  

He chose to focus on the US’s Affordable Care Act – also known as ‘ObamaCare’ – when developing his algorithm, as he says it’s one on which many Americans ...