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Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion [Paperback]

Anthony R. Pratkanis , Elliot Aronson
3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Book Description

25 Nov 1991
The public awareness crusade to fight the spread of AIDS - The party political broadcast - The sportsman's product endorsement - No matter how insidious or noble these endeavours are, their success relies on the tactics of mass persuasion and the susceptibility of people to being persuaded. Today, we are targets of an overwhelming barrage of mass persuasion efforts seeking to influence how we think, what we buy, how we vote, and what we value. "Age of Propaganda" gives the reader an analysis of the patterns, motives, and effects of these efforts. Drawing on the history of propaganda and modem research in social psychology, Pratkanis and Aronson show us mass persuasion in action-not just the tactics, but why they often work, and how we can protect ourselves from manipulation. "Age of Propaganda shlould be of interest to any reader who wants a revealing look at the powerful, often subtle, often unethical forms persuasion takes in our everyday lives.

Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: W.H.Freeman & Co Ltd (25 Nov 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0716722119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716722113
  • Product Dimensions: 23.1 x 15.2 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 401,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"Pratkanis and Aronson warn in their conclusion that we're all headed for an 'ignorance spiral' if we don't stop American standards of persuasion from deteriorating. . . . Don't be part of the problem. Read the book."--"Philadelphia Inquirer""A people's guide to baloney-detecting."--"Seattle Times""In one brilliant tour-de-force, Pratkanis and Aronson give us . . . a comprehensive text of what we really need to know about the most pervasive cultural phenomena of our time."--George Gerbner, Dean Emeritus of the Annenberg School of Communication"The authors . . . inform, provoke, and occasionally shock the reader about the ways in which our beliefs, preferences, and choices are constantly influenced."--Mahzarin Banaji, Yale University"After reading this book, I have begun to doubt that I ever had much control over how I have been influenced by media hype and clever half-truths." --James Randi, debunker of psychic fraud and author of "Flim-Flam "and "The Mask of Nostradamus""I could easily list ten reasons why you should read this book, but your boss and colleagues will probably tell you more about it at the office tomorrow--or worse, your competitors will show you next week."--Peter H. Farquhar, Center for Product Research, Carnegie-Mellon University." . . a gold mine of valuable information and insights into the persuasion process."--Robert B. Cialdini, Arizona State University, and author of "Influence" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

ANTHONY PRATKANIS is at the University of California. - ELLIOT ARONSON is at the University of California, Santa Cruz. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost a textbook ...... but still readable 18 Nov 2003
By A Customer
Given that we are all exposed to some form of propaganda from the moment of birth to the moment of death, I find it amazing that there are not more books on the topic out there. The table of contents made me think to myself, "hey, I want to know about that also!", and the short chapters make for good bedtime reading, even if you only have 10 minutes to spare before doing something 'more interesting'.
I found the book to be somewhat "textbook'ish" at times, which could chase away the more lighthearted readers, but nevertheless enjoyed the examples and explanations given and found it possible to quickly skip sections when they appeared laboured. Structurally, the book is sliced into short and definite sections which attack specific issues and explain to the reader the relevant ways to avoid/recognise/use propoganda in their favour rather than to their detriment. If your like me and read bits at a time, then this is perfect as you wont end up reading the same sentences 12 times over.
As for the content, almost all of the material is essentially common sense and is the type of stuff that we all know, but never take the time to sensibly organise in our minds or take opinion on. This is actually the most exciting reason for reading this book, because we can all relate to it in one way or another.
If the author could have cut out about 75 pages (by avoiding the extreme number of references and explanations of various scientific studies, including his own), then this would definitely be a 5* read. It was just my slight irritation with needing to skip certain laborious sections that stops this one from being great.
In cricket terms, its not quite a 6, but definitely a one bouncer for 4. Get it now ... you wont be dissapointed.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing resource! 21 Aug 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Studying a module in French propaganda, this book gave me a great basis for learning about persuasion and propaganda. A little outdated, and could do with updating to include Wikileaks scandals etc, but other than that, a very well written and useful resource for politics students.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A fine book for US psychology students 13 May 2003
This book is full of insight about persuasion, but it suffers two flaws that prevent me from using it as a textbook. One is that almost every point is supported by an experiment described in the main text. This is rigorous, it is also tedious. Leave the data in an appendix next time please! And the resulting book will be much easier to read. The second is that it assumes an exclusively US audience (frequent references such as "our nation", meaning the USA). It is plain rude of the authors not to consider the possibility that someone from out side the USA might read their book. My students would not get many of the cultural and political references, which are all drawn from the US.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Bad state, highlighted pages and out of date. 31 July 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
It was not crystal clear when I purchased the item that it was an out of date edition if compared to the one I selected at the beginning of my purchasing journey. Also book was in a pretty bad state and a lot of pages were highlighted.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Instructive and entertaining 12 Nov 2002
By Alexei Proussakov - Published on Amazon.com
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. The message must come from `experts' or `unbiased' and, of course, personally attractive communicators. Try to switch on the self-persuasion mechanism of the audience.
3. You create a message that focuses the target's attention and thoughts on exactly what you want them to think about. Research has identified at least five conditions that are likely lead to heuristics. Heuristics are most likely to be used when people do not have time to think carefully about the issue, when they are so overloaded with information that it becomes impossible to process it fully, or when they believe that the issues at stake are not very important. Heuristics are also used when people have little other knowledge or information on which to base a decision and when a given heuristics comes quickly to mind as they are confronted with a problem.
4. You create an emotion of the target that will help you channel thoughts of audience in right direction. Fear appeals are most effective when they raise high levels of fear and suggest a doable and effective responses (the authors also explain why sometimes fear does not work). Guilt: once we are filled with guilt, our thoughts and behavior are directed towards ridding ourselves of this feeling that's where propagandists take advantage of us. Feeling of obligation and indebtedness: large initial request and immediate concession by the requester invokes the norm of reciprocity -we concede. Feeling of commitment based on our desire to be self-consistent. For example, to `soften up' the target you make him involved in a much smaller aspect of the action. This serves to commit the individual to `the case'. Once people are thus committed, the likelihood of their complying with the larger request increases. Another way is to show uniqueness of the offer (scarcity sells). Use the `minimum group paradigm': You are on my side (never mind that I created the terms); now act like it and do what we say. Etc.
The book can be used by target audience to learn persuasion techniques and withstand or organize propaganda tricks. The book is entertaining, rich in vivid examples, and ... has everything to be a success in conveying authors' ideas. Instructive. Great read overall.
40 of 43 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion 1 Mar 2000
By wittig1939@home.com - Published on Amazon.com
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.
35 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The authors educate the reader . 15 May 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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. The authors introduce the reader to a sociologist named David Phillips; the sociologist has made predictions which have been startlingly accurate. For one of his predictions, he had gathered information regarding deaths, which occurred after heavyweight championships. His research uncovered this information: homicide rates rose significantly after 3 to 4 days following a fight. He was also able to conclude that the victims were similar to the fighter beaten in the bout. For example, if a white male was beaten, then murders of young white males increased. The same was true if it was a black opponent. Many people believe the media plays a role in the actions of some people, but no thought is given to how a boxing match could have such an impact on the homicide rate. This study is eerie, yet fascinating. Pratkanis and Aronson inform the reader that instilling fear is often the way we are persuaded to act on an idea. Life insurance agents use fear in order that we purchase policies to "protect our loved ones." Doctors use fear to insure that we take out medication. Even dentists show graphic pictures of rotting teeth so that we will floss and brush daily. The book was informative and enlightening. It makes one stop and think about how society is constantly being persuaded to think and act the way we do, in a conformist mode. The authors accomplish their goal by enabling the reader to identify devices used and either "go with the flow" or "not be taken for a ride."
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Consumers and Citizens, Beware! 2 Feb 2000
By Eric H. Roth - Published on Amazon.com
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."
44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, one of the best on influence 1 April 2002
By Harold McFarland - Published on Amazon.com
This book was a real bother! I usually read a 300 page book in about two hours and am used to reading through them quickly and getting onto the next one. This book was so fascinating that I slowed down to make sure that I got every bit of information out of it that was available.
This book should be required reading for everyone who wants to know how they are being influenced by the marketing people, unscrupulous sales people, cult leaders, governments and others promoters of influence. It is a thorough course in how to spot an attempt to manipulate you and how you can analyse the situation to see if it is really something you want or not.
It has some of the most complete advice on how to examine an item and how to respond of any book on influence that I have read. On the "A" list of must-read books.
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