Appeal to tradition

Also referred to as appeal to traditional values.

Definition and effect on reader

Appeals to tradition are common when debating issues such as same-sex marriage, technology, legislative change or physical changes to the landscape (building shopping malls, redeveloping heritage buildings or similar). It is in essence an attempt to rally nostalgia for “the way it used to be” in the reader, or a suggestion that the way things are now is fine, and therefore not in need of change. For this reason, the technique is obviously more effective with some groups than others and often relies on appealing to that group’s fear of change.

This appeal is directly opposed to attempts to target a reader’s desire to be (or at least to seem to be) progressive. Often these types of appeals to a sense of progressiveness will take place with the same sort of issues:


“The vast majority of Australians agree that people should be able to marry whoever they please, it’s simply the oppressive government who is preventing same-sex marriage reform.”

In this example, the reader does not want to feel “behind the times” by opposing that which the “vast majority of Australians” are insinuated to be progressive enough to agree with. This technique of pitting seemingly traditional or backwards beliefs against progressive social change is relatively common and effective with the opposite audiences to those who are persuaded by appeals to tradition.