Policymakers frequently use arational appeals – such as those relying on emotion, cognitive biases, and subliminal messaging – to persuade citizens to adopt behaviors that support public goals. However, these communication tactics have been widely criticized for relying on arational triggers, rather than reasoned argument. This Article develops a fuller account of the non-consequentialist objections to arational persuasion by state actors, as well as the arguments in favor of such tactics, that have been presented by scholars of rhetoric, political theory, and cognitive science. The Article concludes by proposing ethically justifiable limitations on state communications that should be compelling to both critics and advocates of arational persuasion.
Nadia N. Sawicki, Ethical Limitations on the State's Use of Arational Persuasion, 38 LAW & POL'Y 211 (2016).