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Our Age of Propaganda Reflection

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By emmarosetully
Words 640
Pages 3
The Psychology of Communication
Reflection #3
Set reading; Pratkanis, A; Aronson, E, (1992) "Our Age of Propaganda" from Pratkanis, A; Aronson, E, Age of propaganda : the everyday use and abuse of persuasion pp.1-14, New York: W H Freeman

Personally sourced reading; Doob, LW; Robinson, ES. (1935). Psychology and Propaganda. Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 179, p.88-95

The following readings have been selected due to their similarities of discussion and engagement. The two reading interact in an explicit way and therefore touch on similar debates while providing varied opinions. Psychologists Pratkanis and Aronson present a thorough overview of how individuals and the mass media manipulate us using devious persuasive techniques. While Doob and Robinson attempt to understand propaganda through understanding communications and the behavioural sciences.

In order to understand how and why we are persuaded, Pratkanis and Aronson analyse the various tactics marketers use in advertising to get us to conform. This set reading points out ways in which we might deal sensibly and effectively with propaganda, by examining persuasion in a context of argument and debate. Pratkanis and Aronson quarrel about persuasive communication techniques and suggest that rather than using logical argument, propaganda uses emotional symbols in order to manipulate us. In the personally sourced reading by Doob and Robinson, the approach suggested states that propaganda is not ‘automatically’ successful. Doob and Robinson observed that people were susceptible to suggestion and thus the symbols of propaganda might provoke and recombine pre-existing attitudes. Both readings use advertising as examples to back up their arguments; however Pratkanis and Aronson tend to use rather extreme cases, presumably in order to demonstrate the extent of which propaganda and persuasion can influence us.

Pratkanis and Aronson seek to show the effects of persuasion on consumers in general, whereas Doob and Robinson appreciate the power of personalisation. They suggest that people will interpret things differently according to the personality traits they hold. Doob and Robinson also explore how stimulating aspects of individual identity, emotion, pride, guilt and shame can influence decision making behaviour and attitudes. It is acceptable to state that this view is more logical; in regards to any evidence of this, Doob and Robinson have gone to great lengths in order to describe the factors that influence and construct human behaviour.

Pratkanis and Aronson defend their case by referring to extreme examples. The examples demonstrate the extent in which people go to, in order to conform to what the media is telling them to do. The authors’ blame propaganda and try and prove to us how the public react to everything that is presented to them. The set reading uses numerous facts and figures to shock us and indicate that advertising is taking over our lives. Doob and Robinson touch on a similar opinion; while maintaining the idea that agrees with Pratkanis and Aronson, they outline that every individual can choose how they are going to react to the advertising and persuasion tactics surrounding them. This interpretation is much more realistic; Doob and Robinson suggest that the propagandist ‘is dealing with a number of people whose ways of life are both varied and unique (1935)’. For this reason is it sensible to believe that one can never be ‘absolutely certain that a given stimulus will bring about the same response in every individual (1935)’.

In conclusion, Doob and Robinson approach to psychology and propaganda is favourable. It was acceptable at the time of writing and should be even more so nowadays, as advertising bombards our everyday life. Products and services must be advertised in order to be noticed. Products and services are only created if there is a need for them. Advertising merely helps products and services to differentiate themselves from the competition and therefore cannot be liable for causing impenetrable crime.

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