Choice of symbols Project Management Help

The propagandist aware of the findings of the behavioral sciences no longer has 81 much. confidence 81 his counterparts from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century had in the ability of rational arguments or even of catchy slogans to influence human behaviour. The evolution of psychoanalysis, clinical psychology, and experimental research on communication has made it clear that reactors’ responses are affected not only by the immediate input of symbols but also (and often more powerfully) by three other sets of forces: (1) the stored residues of, and associations to, previous inputs of related symbols, which often give the reactor a predisposition and capacity to ignore or to rationalize away the current inflow of symbols; (2) the economic inducements (gifts, bribery, commercial deals, etc.) or threats Gob loss, boycotts, ete.) and the physical inducements (caresses, violence, protection from vtolence, or threats of violence) which the propagandist can apply in, conjunction with his symbols; and (3) the coercive structures and processes in the surrounding social systems, which may either facilitate or inhibit the expression of whatever new thoughts or other behavioral impulses the current input of symbols may activate.

The scphisticated propagandist, therefore, attempts to take relevant economic and physical action in conjunction with the propagandizing at each stage of his campaign. He also tries to select his symbols in the light of the findings of all the behavioral sciences, from psychoanalytic studies of the stored-up and unconscious reactions of.particular sorts of Individuals and groups through the psychology, sociology, economics, and politics of international relations and of the emerging world social system. There is substantial agreement today in psychology on what Lasswell has penned the “triple-appeal principle.” This principle holds that sets of &ymbolsare likely to be most persuasive if they appeal simultaneously to three components of the individual reactor’s personality. That is, the propagandist tries to offset the resistances due to previous information inputs by presenting the thoughts and acts he desires to induce as if they were: (1)rational, advisable, and expedient (psychoanalytically, this is an appeal to the ego); (2) pleasurable (an appeal to the id); and (3) moral (an appeal to the superego). Within any collectivity, the “mix” of these components varies from individual to individual; and in large collectivities it varies from subculture to subculture and from stratum to stratum. The propagandist tries to adjust his appeals accordingly.

Research from the clinic also suggests the relative effectiveness of choosing vocabularies and symbols and of casting the propagandist (or his -agents) in roles, analogous to those associated with parents or parent substitutes (foster parents, uncles, aunts, school teachers, priests, witch doctors, political heroes, gods, goddesses, etc.), under whose influence the reactors .have undergone many oftheir most formative, emotion-laden, and strongly sanctioned experiences. It is easy to sense the appeal of such familistic symbolisms as “the fatherland,” “the mother country,” “the Mother Church,” “the Holy Father,” “Mother Russia,” “Uncle Sam,” or “Uncle Ho Chi Minh.” The propagandist who can seize the emotional initiative and maintain a virtually parental or divine ascendancy (charisma) can arouse both the animosities and the consciences ofhis followers and of neutrals by “satanizing” the aims and associates of his opponents while idealizing or deifying his own objectives and allies

Reactors growing up in different social groupings, or in the same groupings at different times, are bound to have at least , somewhat differently structured egos and superegos. Hence, the .contribution that psychoanalysis and psychology in their generalized forms can make to the propagandist is not sufficient by itself. Furthermore, even those reactors who already have the attitudes the propagandist desires them to have may be prevented from acting upon these by counterpressures from the particular social groupings or social systems affecting them. It would be difficult, for instance, to act openly upon communist leanings in a totalitarian fascist country, or vice versa Hence, the propagandist must adapt his symbolism not only to the reactors’ conscious and unconscious impulses but also to the lines of action that are open to them.

Propaganda is likely to be most effective if its contents include encouraging references (direct or implied) to all those actions that are feasible for the reactor and that the propagandist wishes him to perform, and if the contents include deterrent references to acts the propagandist wishes the reactor to inhibit (or, in some cases, no references to the latter, lest “ideas be put into the reactor’s head”). The structuring of propaganda contents around such action concepts increases the probability that the propagandist will be realistic in his demands upon the reactor and that the reactor will not be left with the feeling, “I agree with this message, but just what am 1 supposed to do about it?” Where military or political secrecy or surprise is important to the propagandist, he will be inclined to state his action demands obliquely or deceptively: in some cases opponents can use sysf.ematic analysis of the content of propaganda to infer the propagandist’s secret or unconscious intentions and probable future actions.

Much more could be said about the selection of symbols. One especially intriguing question for our epoch should be raised: Can behavioral research discover, and will influential propagandists be willing to employ, universalistic symbolisms that can reduce interpersonal and inter collectivity destructiveness to levels that might make possible a viable world social order?

Posted on November 27, 2015 in Propaganda

Share the Story

Back to Top