Dissociation (rhetoric)

Dissociation is a rhetorical device in which the speaker separates a notion considered by the audience to form a unitary concept into two new notions.[1]

Kathryn Olson, Director of the Rhetorical Leadership Program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explains that by doing this, the speaker fundamentally changes the reality of the thought system in question by creating a disjunction between what was an integrated concept to begin with.[2] According to M.A. Van Rees, dissociation is a two step process of distinction and definition: distinction divides a single concept into two new notions for the audience and definition replaces the original term or concept with two new terms, each with their own definitions.[1]

This process is rhetorically effective when a rhetor presents a particular concept in a light that is favorable to the his/her interests by dissociating a term with any notions that do not serve the rhetor's purpose.[1] According to Øyvind Ihlen, the rhetor attempts to "remove an incompatibility that arises from confrontation between propositions" to better affect an audience's beliefs.[3] Defining a situation through dissociation, when done correctly, authoritatively declares the two resulting concepts distinct and rules out any further argument.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Van Rees, M.A. "Strategic Maneuvering with Dissociation." Argumentation 20.4 (2006): 473-487. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.
  2. ^ Olson, Kathryn M. "The Role of Dissociation in Redeeming Knowledge Claims: Nineteenth-Century Shakers' Epistemological Resistance to Decline." Philosophy & Rhetoric 28.1 (1995): 45-68. JSTOR. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
  3. ^ Ihlen, Øyvind. "Rhetoric and resources: notes for a new approach to public relations and issues management." Journal of Public Affairs 2.4 (2002): 259-269. Wiley Online Library. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.

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