By Amanda Jones
Attitudes, beliefs and actions are easily persuaded by modern day propaganda. Jowett and O’Donnell define propaganda as the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist. To fully understand propaganda you must understand the way attitudes, beliefs and actions play a part in the persuasion technique.
We all have existing attitudes and beliefs with each influencing our actions. Our attitudes, beliefs and actions affect the way we perceive new information such as propaganda. In order for one to persuade another, the persuader must have knowledge of existing attitudes and beliefs to use as an anchor in persuasion.
Attitudes are formed by certain beliefs about a person, idea, or object. People have countless attitudes, many of which can be used as an appeal to promote the change wanted by the propagandist. Beliefs are simply someone’s opinion about someone or something. Like attitudes, beliefs are used as an anchor to promote change. The stronger beliefs of the receiver the more likely it is to influence the formation of a new belief. (Jowett/O’Donnell p. 31) Actions or behaviors can also be used as an anchor to affect already existing beliefs or attitudes of the target audience
The mass media is a perfect form of propaganda that changes many people’s attitudes, beliefs and actions every day. Advertising can be seen a form if propaganda. It persuades people to feel or act a certain way about a commercial product, organization, person or brand. Advertising is everywhere. You can see it on TV in your living room, billboards all around town, and even hear it on the radio while driving in your car. Attitudes, beliefs and actions can be easily persuaded by placing emotion into an advertisement. Emotional appeals are used often to connect people to the band or product which without doubt help in the persuasion process. If someone connects to the ad on an emotional level then the advertisement has done its job on persuading the consumer to buy or become a fan of the product.
Politics can also be seen as a form of propaganda. Think back to the Obama/McCain election, how many campaign ads did you see? Campaign ads along with campaign posters, books, movies and radio are tools uses to win over the peoples vote. Politics are flooded with propaganda to change people’s attitudes toward a certain politician. Political experts discuss how candidates sincerely reach out to voters, how a cold, detached persona alienates key demographics, and how campaign advertisements arouse passions-- ranging from hope and enthusiasm to anger and discontent. (Weber, 2007) Emotional appeals are also common in political campaigning.
According to Encyclopedia Britannica, propaganda is the more or less systematic effort to manipulate other people’s beliefs, attitudes, or actions by means of symbols (words, gestures, banners, monuments, music, clothing, insignia, hairstyles, designs on coins and postage stamps, and so forth). Propaganda must focus in already existing attitudes and beliefs to trigger a change in the audience. If one can relate to the audience then one is more like to persuade the viewer to make the change wanted by the propagandist. Next time when you try to persuade a group of people, do your homework. Know what will cause the audience to change their beliefs or attitudes about a certain subject.
Jowett, G.S. & V. O’Donnell. (2006). Chapter 1. What is propaganda and how does it differ from persuasion? In Propaganda and Persuasion, 4th edition (pp. 1-48). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
propaganda. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 21, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/478875/propaganda
Weber, C. , 2007-08-30 "Emotional Campaigns: The Role of Discrete Emotions in Political Advertising" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, Hyatt Regency Chicago and the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, Chicago, IL Online <APPLICATION/PDF>. 2009-05-27 from http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p208851_index.html