Sample English Paper on Rhetorical Analysis of an Article “Inside A Psychopath’s Brain: The Sentencing Debate” by Barbara Bradley

In the article “Inside A Psychopath’s Brain: The Sentencing Debate” Barbara Bradley Hagerty examines whether people with mental disorders should be exempt from the death penalty in the case that they have committed crimes that warrant capital punishment. The author goes to great lengths to reveals the workings of a psychotic criminal’s mind by following the work of a renowned psychopathy professor. Hagerty arrives at the conclusion that neuroimaging and neuroscience will transform the whole notion of how the system punishes and decides to debilitate as well as dealing with people who have committed criminal acts. To that extent, the effectiveness of Hagerty’s article can be determined via a rhetorical analysis of the ethos, pathos, and logos since these devices determine an author’s accuracy and appeal to the audience.

            The article discussed above can be examined through the use of pathos, ethos, and, logos. These rhetorical devices are present in virtually every argument and this is so in these news article. Ethos is appeal on the basis of the character of the writer. An argument centered on ethos hinges on the reputation of the author. In fact, ethos appeals to the author’s honesty and decisiveness. It is how the author shows the audience that he /she is qualified to talk about a topic; this can be realized using numerous methods. First, by being a key person in the discipline being discussed, like an intellectual or professional whose discipline is the subject matter. Next, by having close interest in the topic, that is, the person associates with the topic in question. Third, through the application of outstanding logos that highlights to the readers the writer has profound knowledge on the topic. Finally, by making an appeal to one’s ethics. Ethos is an effective mode of persuasion because when an individual believes the writer has no intention of causing harm, he/she is keener to read the story. 

            On account of the above, Hagerty correctly applies the use of pathos in his article. She manages to persuade the reader by referring to the work of Kent Kiel, who is a professor at the University of New Mexico and one of the top investigators of psychopathy in the world. Kiehl has studied hundreds of psychopaths and shares some of his insights with the author. In particular, the professor takes a test to reveal if a person is a psychopath; the scores for this test ranges from 0 to 40 (Hagerty, 1). Kiehl asserts that a normal person will score about 4 or 5 while a psychopath will score over 30. To demonstrate the effectiveness of his method, Kiehl gives the example of Brain Dugan, who scored 38. Brian is serving two life sentences after pleading guilty to charges of murder and rape (Hagerty, 1). On that account, since the author sought the insight of a professional, she correctly applies the use of ethos to illustrate the brain of a psychopath.

            Logos is the use of logic to appeal to the reader. It is typically applied to illustrate data that strengthens the viewpoint of the author. Using an appeal based on logos also reinforces ethos since the argument illuminates the author’s knowledge and makes him/her look prepared to the audience. Logos is more of a broader idea than formal logic and implies any endeavor to petition to the intellect. An argument based on logos will challenge the author’s credibility and efforts to touch the emotions of the audience.

            Hagerty’s articleis based on logos. She cites a recording of Brian Dugan whereby he discusses how he ended up raping and murdering a 10-year old girl to prove that a psychopath does not have normal brain functions. By quoting what Dugan said in the tape, the author is able to convince the reader that such a person has different physical brain. To validate this fact, she discusses how brain scans conducted by Professor Kiehl on psychopaths unveil a dark side of their minds that induce them to committing vicious acts. The scans show that psychopaths doe not have any emotional intelligence thus do not have any sense of humanity in them. This evidence gives validity to the author’s assertions and demonstrate her effective use of logos.  

            Pathos attempts to appeal to the reader emotionally. If well used, pathos can be extremely powerful. It works well when the author relates with a basic principle of the reader. When an individual accepts an inference on the basis of how it makes him/her feel without comprehensively reasoning about the tenets of the argument, he/she is acting on pathos. Indeed, most arguments in the media are depended on pathos; this is the case in this article. The author states that psychopaths should be treated differently by the criminal justice system since their brains function differently. Whereas this does not exempt them from being charged, it shows that the nature of sending should change.

            The analysis of the article in the lens of pathos, methods, and logos reveals that the author came up a with a valid argument. She not only gives insight the reader into the topic, she also manages to sway opinion. One can certainly agree with her conclusion that neuroimaging and neuroscience will transform the whole notion of how the system punishes and decides to debilitate as well as dealing with people who have committed criminal acts.

Works Cited

Hagerty, Barbara Bradley. “Inside A Psychopath’s Brain: The Sentencing Debate.” NPR, 2010. Retrieved from