Peffley                                              Political Behavior Lecture Outline

Political Propaganda, Attitude Change, and Political Persuasion


I.    Political Propaganda and Democracy

A.  One goal of this course to provide a practical guide to political citizenship in the 21st Century.  One goal of this course to inoculate ourselves against attempts at political manipulation. 

B.  Political propaganda defined, pervasiveness of propaganda, goal of propaganda, dangers of propaganda.

C.  Propaganda related to attempts to educate, mislead, or manipulate the public.

D.  Examples of propaganda: Positive propaganda (e.g., “Man from Hope”); negative propaganda (Turnstile ad and Willie Horton ad); and television commercials (e.g., “Merchants of Cool”).


II.  Essential Modern Dilemma:  we value persuasion as argumentation and education, but political persuasion and debate today emphasize mindless propaganda designed to prevent us from thinking in an intelligent way about the content of political messages.

A.  Why mindless propaganda?

B.  Why an increase in the use of political propaganda?


III.Attitude Change Theories

A.  Kitchen Sink Model of Attitude Change, depends on:

1.   Source of the message

2.   Message characteristics

3.   Audience characteristics

B.  Cognitive Consistency Theories of Attitude Change:  Leon Festinger’s Cognitive Dissonance Theory:.

1.   "Insufficient justification" and other conditions.

a)   Political examples:

2.   Application to decision making: 

a)   Vietnam War escalation


As you read Pratkanis and Aronson:

1.     How does political persuasion and propaganda in modern times differ from persuasive appeals in earlier eras (e.g., the Greek city state) and how do these differences affect the route through which persuasion affects us and, ultimately, the "dilemma of democracy?"


2.     As you read Pratkanis and Aronson, try to think of political examples of the principles of propaganda they describe, taken either from political campaigns, attempts at government propaganda, or persuasive appeals of television or radio personalities.


3.     Pratkanis and Aronson discuss a variety of methods to resist propaganda, including forewarning, playing devil's advocate, and the inoculation effect. Evaluate their effectiveness in helping the public resist propaganda.


4.     Describe several of the propaganda techniques and how they were used in the Third Reich by Hitler and Gobbles to bolster the myth of absolute righteousness of the Nazi cause?