What is it about?

How some of the most prominent children-oriented charities in Poland tend to appeal to donors through their web-pages, particularly how they use images, infographics and designs to generate emotional responses (rhetorical mode of persuasion based on pathos).

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Why is it important?

According to literature, sometimes charity organizations are prone to using certain images to "emotionally blackmail" people into donations. Faced with this, viewers-prospective donors tend to deploy defense mechanisms and resist the appeals or become desensitized to emotion-laden images. This study surveys current patterns in website design in order to analyse if the ensembles of information and imagery that tend to dominate in Poland (a country with a relatively low social capital) are used not only effectively but also ethically.


Analysing how public communication influences citizens is not easy. There are many ways in which organizations, including charities, might try to influence more people to undertake solidarity or compassion-driven activities, including donations. However, charity communications can end up being perceived as incredible or offensive if they rely on "emotional blackmail". Although viewers might feel the urge to donate under intense emotional pressure, in the long run they might avoid being put in such situations and turn away from charities that appeal for donations basing predominantly on emotion.

Dr hab. Katarzyna Molek-Kozakowska
University of Opole

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Graphic emotion: a critical rhetorical analysis of online children-related charity communication in Poland, Critical Discourse Studies, January 2019, Taylor & Francis, DOI: 10.1080/17405904.2019.1567362.
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