Security through Numbers? Experimentally Assessing the Impact of Numerical Arguments in Security Communication
British Journal of Politics and International Relations
Reason for embargo
Currently under an indefinite embargo pending publication by SAGE Publications. No embargo required on publication
Numerical arguments are increasingly present in security communication and are widely as-sumed to possess a distinct capacity to make an argument convincing, thereby contributing to the dynamics of securitization. Yet, does the inclusion of numbers really enhance the strength of rhetorical attempts to convince an audience that something or someone is a security prob-lem? We examine this question by developing an experimental design that connects cognitive theories of information processing with theories of security and risk communication. Contrary to a widely shared view, our results suggest that numbers do not have a direct, unambiguous, or unconditional impact on the strength of security rhetoric. Quantitative information only enhances direct attempts to securitize issues under very specific circumstances and, even in these cases, has ambiguous effects. Factors such as the legitimacy of the individual who makes the argument may play an important role in determining the impact of numbers in security communication.
This is the author accepted manuscript.
Awaiting citation and DOI