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Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion Paperback – October, 1991

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Editorial Reviews Review

Drawing on the history of propaganda and modern research in social psychology, this book reveals mass persuasion in action -- not just the tactics, but why they work so well, and how we can protect ourselves from manipulation.

From Library Journal

Psychologists Pratkanis and Aronson present a thorough overview of how individuals and the mass media manipulate us using devious persuasive techniques. In order to understand how and why we are persuaded, the authors analyze the various tactics people use to get us to comply; point out ways we might deal sensibly and effectively with propaganda; and examine persuasion in a context of argument and debate. The authors' quarrel with persuasive communication today is that, rather than using logical argument, it uses emotional symbols to manipulate us. Advertisers, for example, use short, catchy, visually oriented messages to get us to buy things we might not need. Pratkanis and Aronson skillfully summarize research findings from the field of social psychology to illustrate their points. While a large portion of the book is devoted to advertising techniques, the authors also examine media coverage of the Gulf War, cult leaders, and political elections. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.
- Gary D. Barber, SUNY at Fre donia Lib.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W H Freeman & Co (Sd) (October 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716722119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716722113
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,494,869 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

69 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Alexei Proussakov on November 12, 2002
Format: Paperback
Peoples' data-processing capabilities are limited. In the information-dense world people are unable to critically review all the information they receive. In order to be adequate to the situation, they resort to so-called heuristics, simple cues or rules for solving the problem. Heuristics are based on peoples' previous experience in similar situations. Although relying on heuristics is sometimes a useful way of dealing with the onslaught of the decision-rich environment, basing our decisions primarily on heuristics can present some problems. First, heuristic cues that we possess may be false. Furthermore, a rule may be appropriate in certain situations but be misapplied in others. Another serious problem is that heuristics can be easily faked and manipulated. Knowledge of heuristics enables propagandists to control peoples' course of action.
The authors did a research of propaganda techniques and set four stratagems of persuasion:
1. You create favorable climate for the massage (called pre-persuasion). You subtly outline what picture has to be drawn in the end. Here you decide what way thoughts and perceptions of the audience will be shaped and channeled. Having established right basis for further discourse you secure the results you seek. At this stage you should identify some statements as axioms, i.e. `what everyone takes for granted' and `what everyone knows'. You attribute labels (positive or negative) to objects of further discussion, put black-or-white colors in non-disputable way. You use generalities to depict the situation - they are usually so ambiguous that you may change their meanings in the future. You use rumors and gossips.
2. You create a `source credibility', i.e. establish a favorable image in the eyes of the audience.
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40 of 44 people found the following review helpful By on March 1, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book which explains how the media, demagogues, politicains and marketers are able to gain compliance from their various publics. The use of lab studies and real world examples bring both theory and practice together. I have used this book for a class in propaganda since its first edition, and without fail students rave about the book in their course evaluations. It is a well-written book devoid of educationalese. This is an important book that provides the reader with genuine insight into a world of total propaganda and how as "cognitive misers" we allow ourselves to be manipulated.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 15, 1999
Format: Paperback
If you want advice on how to be an effective and honest communicator, Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson have written an entire book about it, Age of Propaganda: the everyday use and abuse of persuasion (265 pages. W.H. Freeman and Company). Pratkanis and Aronson give their own accounts of how propaganda impacted their childhood. Aronson recalls how he felt about the "evil Germans" and "sneaky Japanese" while growing up in the 1940s. Pratkanis lost his naïveté when the Watergate scandal broke. He would later come to the realization that all politicians lie and cheat. The two authors attempt to educate the reader regarding propaganda and persuasion. Their goal is have the reader able to identify devices used, what makes them effective, and how to counteract their effectiveness without becoming a pessimist. All the chapters were enlightening; some stood out more than others and were able to give good "heads up" advice. The authors give the reader the inside track on how advertisers promote their products, a "buyer beware" sort of infomercial. Companies use words such as new, quick, easy, improved, now, suddenly, amazing, and introducing to sell their products. The authors further expose merchants by explaining how they make certain brands more accessible than others by placing them at eye level. Additionally, the consumer is informed that ads using animals, babies, or sex sell the product more successfully than advertisers that use cartoons or historical figures. The buyer is also cautioned on how merchants place products at the end of a supermarket aisle or near the checkout aisle; this strategy catches the consumer's eye and lures them into the "I gotta have it, can't live without it" frame of mind.Read more ›
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42 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Eric H. Roth on February 2, 2000
Format: Paperback
This insightful book explores the profound differences in decision-making over the last 2,500 years. Despite a penchant for social science jargon, the authors successfully translate a tremendous amount of current communications research on the creation and maintainance of belief systems into an accessible book. "Age of Propaganda" documents the rise of advertising, the decline of genuine public discourse, and the inherent dangers of ten second soundbites in determining our desires, needs, and goals. Further, they detail the unique difficulties in making a "rational" decision in a fast-paced, message-dense, mass-media culture. This provocative and disturbing book also paints a potentially bleak picture for America's democratic traditions. Fortunately, the authors provide readers with "an arsenal" of intellectual tools to decode messages and protect ourselves. As the authors conclude, "we must depend on our own knowledge of propaganda tactics and our own efforts to treat important issues as if they were truly important."
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