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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Diversity of Argument-Making in the Wild: from Assumptions and Definitions to Causation and Anecdote in Reddit's ``Change My View''


What kinds of arguments do people make, and what effect do they have on others? Normative constraints on argument-making are as old as philosophy itself, but little is known about the diversity of arguments made in practice. We use NLP tools to extract patterns of argument-making from the Reddit site "Change My View'' (r/CMV). This reveals six distinct argument patterns: not just the familiar deductive and inductive forms, but also arguments about definitions, relevance, possibility and cause, and personal experience. Data from r/CMV also reveal differences in efficacy: personal experience and, to a lesser extent, arguments about causation and examples, are most likely to shift a person's view, while arguments about relevance and presumption are the least. Finally, our methods reveal a gradient of argument-making preferences among users: a two-axis model, of "personal—impersonal'' and "concrete—abstract'', can account for nearly 80% of the strategy variance between individuals.

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