Social cognition and discourse processing goals in the analysis of 'ex-gay' rhetoric


This article reports a critical discourse analysis of a series of newspaper advertisements advocating 'ex-gay' ministries and 'reparative therapy' for homosexuality - interventions designed to 'treat' homosexuality through prayer or psychoanalysis. These ads, part of an effort to make 'ex-gay' discourse more central to the public communication strategies of conservative, anti-gay political groups, feature both narrative and statistical arguments that gay men and lesbians can be converted to heterosexuality. This study draws on quantitative social psychological research on antigay attitudes and Slater's extension of the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion to establish the cognitive context for this discourse and to link the argumentative features of the advertisements to potential persuasive effects on different audiences. The analysis shows how different rhetorical strategies employed in these ads might differentially influence readers who are either 'value protective' or 'value affirmative' in their processing goals. Copyright © 2008 SAGE Publications.

Publication Title

Discourse and Society