The Psychology of Propaganda in the Media

We are bombarded on a daily basis with persuasive arguments. Understanding how to assess these arguments is critical to insure that the population is well informed on important issues. Two routes of persuasion have been identified, central and peripheral(Petty and Caccioppo, 1986).

An example of the central route would be of a chess master recommending a move to someone. They base the move off of logic which assesses all of the pieces on the board. The central route is based off of facts.

An example of a peripheral route would be when Bill O'Reilly throws around words such as anti-patriotic when he attacks someone like Rosie O'Donnell. The peripheral route relies upon influencing individuals emotions through cue words, attractiveness of the person proposing the argument(the only thing Michelle Malkin has going for her), or citing quantity over quality ( "50 experts said so!" vs. "1 expert" where the 1 expert is using quality arguments and the 50 are using weak arguments.).

Our news media constantly uses the peripheral route to influence people. If one were to flip through the major news networks one would see that most of the anchors are "beautiful" people. The male and female anchors in some cases could pass as models with their symmetrical faces.

How can one determine if a disingenuous message is being given? Well we can look to the area of psychology called behavioral psychology. This whole genre really began when the Russian scientist Pavlov discovered that dogs would drool when they were about to be fed food.

What was happening to those dogs? The dogs drooling was a response that they could not control. When they saw food they immediately began drooling. In psychology this is called the Unconditioned Response (UCR). It is a response that occurs innately. The food that the dogs were seeing is called the Unconditioned Stimulus (UCS). A bell that was rung at the same time the food was presented is called the Conditioned Stimulus (CS). When the CS gets paired multiple times with the UCS, the UCS can be removed and the CS presented alone will elicit the same response as the UCS alone. The end result of course is that the dogs will drool when they hear the bell. This is called "conditioning".

How does it relate to the media as a whole? Well anyone who has been watching the news (or getting it online because they're boycotting T.V.) knows that there has been this coupling of "conspiracy theorists" and "kooks". A conspiracy theory is simply a proposed idea that involves two or more individuals acting in tandem to commit a crime. There's nothing "kooky" about it. In this instance, "conspiracy theory" is the conditioned stimulus and "kook" is the unconditioned stimulus. They get repeatedly paired and eventually the phrase "conspiracy theory" invokes the idea of wackos. This particular phrase has been completely modified in the public mind because it has been paired with kooks since JFK was killed. Hence the incredibly powerful association of kooks and conspiracy theorist. Recently new associations are being forged through the media. "Holocaust deniers"/"Anti-Semitism" is a new unconditioned stimulus that evokes disgust and disbelief (as any racism should..). This UCS is getting paired with "9/11 truthers" and "conspiracy theorists". The "9/11 truthers" is a new CS and the "conspiracy theorists" is an old CS. In this case a technique called "chaining" is being employed. CS's which already evoke UCR's can be used as an attachment for a new CS(9/11 truthers). Chaining is what is used when training animals to do tricks which are more complicated than say, barking.

What to do? Well if you don't mind being treated like a dog just keep listening to the corporate media's peripheral persuasion arguments. If you don't like the fact that the media uses "sound bites" and other peripheral persuasion techniques, then sit down and watch their programs with a critical eye. Get a pencil and paper. First identify if the argument is peripheral or central. If its central then they are giving you facts. Check out these facts to make sure they aren't omitting context which could alter the way you look at the facts. They do this all the time."Iran is trying to get nuclear weapons." Meanwhile Israel HAS nuclear weapons and has NOT signed the NPT treaty as has Iran. Double standard....nah! If the arguments are peripheral your job should be easier. All you have to do is identify which portions of the argument are meant to elicit emotion (UCS) and which portions are being tied to that emotion (CS). Once you have done this write the broadcasting company identifying these items. Propagandists need to be called out for what they are and given the boot. They have no business manipulating the public for corporate interests.

Don't stop there. Spread the word to friends and family about these techniques. I've just thrown this together so there may be better examples out there. Feel free to send this message in its entirety to anyone you care about.

In that vein

there were so many discoveries made in the last century. The Milgram experiment, the Stanford prison experiment, the Asch conformity experiment and the Third Wave, to name a few. All these yielded insights into our "wiring", so to speak, and not surprisingly have been (ab)used extensively by those unscrupulous enough.

Myself, I've been confronted with these mechanisms quite early because my parents are/were both active in the field of psychology, and it is of course much easier to resist these backhanded techniques once you can identify them, so I absolutely commend you for bringing this topic up here, Whitey!

This should be required reading for everyone.

interns < internets

Has our country already been conquered ,

,.,., but, no one has told us??????
the more deeper I get into 9-11
it is so clear , we have traitors in our government-
after being banned from free republic today.and seeing the worship of george bush on that site.
and my self being silenced.
other places I have been attacked or silenced, is one,. and many others.
our borders have been left wide open since 9-11
anyone trying to confront that issue is silenced, or put in prison, as some of our borderpatrol agents have been.
there is for sure a conspiracy, yes, I am using that term, to destroy america,.
this is very real,
please let me say who I am-
I may upset some, I hope not, but, must be honest.
my intentions are honorable, as I love my country,
I am a mohave county minuteman, and we are working hard to show AMERICA: FREEDOM TO FASCISM-
we have had public showings thru out arizona, and now are aligned with other groups, promoting the U S constitution,,.
this 9-11 and related issues are not liberal or conservative issues, but, american issues, we must all come together and fight.
a great book I recomend titled "the silent invasion"
but, when I say we must fight, it may come down to that-
here in arizona, many of us believe will be the last stand, against this tyranny.
over and over I see this controlled paid off media attack us,and mock us,.threaten us,
tonight I accepted , I am vice president of the re formed republican party. AZ
and 9-11 truth is part of our platform,
and I promise so help me God - to spread the truth .

Michael of arizona

It's just business

I used to fight advertising in schools. I went to my local university's business library to do some research on advertising, and there I learned I was not overreacting. I found many journal articles written by PhDs in psychology about how to manipulate people. The example I remember is an article about how a pause before saying something increases the impact of what you say. The day after I read the article I heard this technique on National Public Radio. On "Marketplace," if my memory serves.

The big picture

I myself am pursuing a higher degree in Psychology. I have to say that I do not think the average individual, who is seeking any higher degree, tends to see the big picture. This is damaging to society when individuals do not think about all the manners in which their research could be used. In addition, individuals who seek higher degrees, in many cases, seem to abdicate their responsibility as citizens by informing themselves of pertinent issues. These individuals are highly talented which is one reason they pursue a higher degree. The problem is that the programs which grant higher degrees force them to exert most of their energy dealing with specific issues and their mode of thought gets completely shifted such that major contemporary issues are not paid attention to.

On another note:
If anyone here is well versed with "Cinelerra", the linux video editor please contact me. I would like to take current propaganda and break it down to give concrete example of Unconditioned Responses, Unconditioned Stimuli, and Conditioned Stimuli. If citizens are to be well informed they need good exemplars to work with.

"... In questions of science, the authority of a thousand is not worth the humble reasoning of a single individual." (Galileo Galilei, 1564 - 1642)