Toulmin model In A Nutshell

The Toulmin model is a system of argumentation that is used to develop, analyze, and categorize arguments. The Toulmin model was created by British philosopher Stephen Toulmin in his 1958 book The Uses of Argument. In the model, an argument is separated into its constituent parts and each part is evaluated in terms of how well it contributes to the whole. In other words, how valid or effective is the argument? 

Understanding the Toulmin model

To determine validity, Toulmin argued that there are six parts factors to consider. Three of which are fundamental to every argument:

  1. The claim – or the assertion that someone wants to prove to someone else. In other words, the main argument. For this article, let us assume that someone argues to someone else that they should purchase a new Ford pickup truck.
  2. The grounds – or the evidence that helps support the claim. The grounds may include data, facts, or logical reasoning. The Ford F150 truck has been the best-selling truck in American for 10 years.
  3. The warrant – or an assumption that links the grounds to the claim, thereby legitimizing it and making it relevant. The warrant can simply be implied or it can be stated explicitly. Ford trucks consistently score highly for consumer satisfaction.

The three remaining parts of the Toulmin model

The three remaining parts of the model are not considered fundamental to the Toulmin model.

Nevertheless, they can be used to construct robust, nuanced arguments.

Here is a look at each, using the Ford example from the previous section:

  1. The backing – which gives additional support to the warrant by answering different questions. For example, Ford has dealerships right across America – even in small, rural towns. 
  2. The qualifier – describing the strength of the relationship between the data and the warrant. Qualifying statements usually include words such as “most”, “usually”, “sometimes”, or “always”. For example, most men in the 35 to 45 demographic own a new or used Ford truck.
  3. The rebuttal – or the counter-argument that takes the form of continued dialogue or rebuttal during the initial presentation of the argument. The rebuttal is a form of argument in itself and must include a claim, warrant, backing, etc. A rebuttal to the argument of buying a Ford truck may be that the company has reliability issues. This could be countered by stating that Ford has recently improved quality control by building new production facilities in collaboration with other automakers.

Applications of the Toulmin model in business

The Toulmin model has benefits for committees and other business meetings. This is because most meetings rarely use the power of debate in making effective decisions. Getting the decision-making process right is particularly important when many stakeholders are involved. Have the needs of every stakeholder been adequately addressed? Debating the efficacy of a decision using argumentation minimizes the chances of stakeholder rebuttal. 

To smooth this process, each committee member should be asked to fill out the six parts of the argument they want to put forth. Most individuals will find that their points of view (or perspectives) do not satisfy Toulmin’s criteria for a good argument. Indeed, the arguments that do satisfy all criteria are vastly superior to what might have been decided by not using the method.

Key takeaways

  • The Toulmin model is a tool used to develop effective argumentation by breaking down each argument into six parts.
  • The Toulmin model argues that three parts are fundamental to any argument: the claim, the grounds, and the warrant. The remaining three parts of the backing, qualifier, and rebuttal can be used to construct more nuanced arguments.
  • The Toulmin model has important implications for decision making in business. The systematic nature of deconstructing arguments ensures that only decisions likely to satisfy all stakeholders are implemented.

Related Case Studies

As highlighted by German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer in the paper “Heuristic Decision Making,” the term heuristic is of Greek origin, meaning “serving to find out or discover.” More precisely, a heuristic is a fast and accurate way to make decisions in the real world, which is driven by uncertainty.
The recognition heuristic is a psychological model of judgment and decision making. It is part of a suite of simple and economical heuristics proposed by psychologists Daniel Goldstein and Gerd Gigerenzer. The recognition heuristic argues that inferences are made about an object based on whether it is recognized or not.
The representativeness heuristic was first described by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky. The representativeness heuristic judges the probability of an event according to the degree to which that event resembles a broader class. When queried, most will choose the first option because the description of John matches the stereotype we may hold for an archaeologist.
The take-the-best heuristic is a decision-making shortcut that helps an individual choose between several alternatives. The take-the-best (TTB) heuristic decides between two or more alternatives based on a single good attribute, otherwise known as a cue. In the process, less desirable attributes are ignored.
The concept of cognitive biases was introduced and popularized by the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman in 1972. Biases are seen as systematic errors and flaws that make humans deviate from the standards of rationality, thus making us inept at making good decisions under uncertainty.
The bundling bias is a cognitive bias in e-commerce where a consumer tends not to use all of the products bought as a group, or bundle. Bundling occurs when individual products or services are sold together as a bundle. Common examples are tickets and experiences. The bundling bias dictates that consumers are less likely to use each item in the bundle. This means that the value of the bundle and indeed the value of each item in the bundle is decreased.
The Barnum Effect is a cognitive bias where individuals believe that generic information – which applies to most people – is specifically tailored for themselves.

Read Next: Heuristics, Biases.

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