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Audience Psychology: Understanding Audience Emotions

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There are two types of emotions we must consider in the study of audience psychology: emotions that depress or dissuade people from action, like sorrow, fear, shame, and humility; emotions that elevate and stimulate people to action like joy, love, esteem
               different audience emotions

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Common to every member of an audience is emotion. Love and grief and their opposites - hate and joy, with all their various gradations - run through every audience no matter what the cultural status of the group is.

For instance, acts that lead toward the unification and up-building of individuals and society are acts that evoke admiration. Loyalty that binds people together wins our respect, while disloyalty elicits our contempt. Self-sacrifice for the group or for an individual wins our love. Selfishness that disintegrates the group repels us.

There are two types of emotions we must consider in the study of audience psychology: emotions that depress or dissuade people from action, like sorrow, fear, shame, and humility; emotions that elevate and stimulate people to action like joy, love, esteem, and pity.

The question is: How do you awaken these emotions in your audience? Of course you do not just simply move your audience to emotion simply by telling them, "Now, I am going to make you feel happy or sad." Rather, you must see a technique of arousing them to emotional reactions to your speech. By being objective, you can arrive at the emotion obliquely (showing them rather than telling them).

A knowledge of the working of the human heart will help you, the speaker, to shape your speech according to the emotional needs of your audience. Understanding people's desires, yearnings, miseries, problems that best them in their struggles for existence, their strengths and weaknesses as human beings, their drives to reach their goals in life - all these will help you determine ways and means of reaching your audience, of sharing ideas more closely with them, of securing favorable responses from them. Through your profound understanding of your audience's emotions, you can secure two main overt responses from them - laughter and tears.

You must remember that laughter has a stimulant effect on the audience while tears can help relieve the pattern of tension in speaking situation. For instance, a large group of audience is more prone to laughter than a smaller one. A large audience will laugh at jokes that would not even evoke a smile from an individual, would laugh at jokes of sexual implication involving social taboo that would embarrass a smaller audience. On the other hand, an audience will be moved to applause or to tears at seeing a noble man unjustly accused but finally acquitted by a jury; or the sight of a blind student going up the stage to receive his college diploma with highest honors will make an audience applaud and cry at the same time.

 

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Roberta Baxter
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Posted on Jun 16, 2011

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Michelle Lascuna

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