Propaganda and Persuasion gives you a one-of-a-kind opportunity to explore the powerful, fascinating, and at times dangerous world of influence. Taught by Professor Dannagal G. Young of the University of Delaware, these 12 eye-opening lectures arm you with the tools of effective communication and the insight to understand—and perhaps resist—persuasion in all its forms.
Propaganda and Persuasion
Dannagal G. Young is a Professor of Communication at the University of Delaware. She received her PhD in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. In addition to her books Irony and Outrage and Wrong, she has written more than 60 academic articles and book chapters and has published extensively in the popular press. She has also appeared on CNN, NPR, and various national and international podcasts. Her 2020 TED talk explaining how our psychology shapes our politics has been viewed 2 million times.
01: How Propaganda and Persuasion Differ
Your course begins with an introduction to persuasion. What is it and how is it different from coercion, manipulation, and propaganda? After considering free will and how people must choose to change an attitude or belief, you will reflect on the ethics of persuasion and the social responsibility of those hoping to persuade us.
02: Early Fears of Mass Persuasion
The rise of mass media in the 20th century fundamentally changed the human experience. Now the masses could have collective experiences through mass communication. Social scientists wondered whether these forces would improve society or make individuals subject to manipulation. Explore the beginnings of “public relations.”
03: Propaganda of the Third Reich
One of the most consequential demonstrations of mass mediated propaganda comes from the Third Reich. Examine how Nazi leaders studied mass media and used it to build an authoritarian regime of death and destruction. See how the concepts of “manipulation,” “canalization,” and “supplementation” lay the groundwork for propaganda.
04: Persuasion of the American Consumer
After World War II, mass media took another giant leap with the development of consumer advertising techniques that relied on meaning rather than features to sell products. Delve into the world of “Mad Men” to see how they shaped American life—and propped up the American economy in the post-war era.
05: The Role of Attitudes in Persuasion
If persuasion is about changing attitudes, what is an “attitude”? In this lecture, consider how attitudes are learned feelings about some object, how attitudes are formed, and how they can be changed. Your study takes you into the wild world of market research, cognitive dissonance, social biases, and other concepts.
06: Rational and Irrational Paths to Persuasion
Long before mass media existed, Aristotle wrote about “pathos” (an appeal to our emotions) and “logos” (an appeal to reason) as approaches to persuasion. Today, are we won over by the head or the heart? Here, you will examine the complex interplay of the rational and the irrational—and the connection to our motivations.
07: Persuading with Reason
How do you explain the difference between what someone says and how they act? The “theory of reasoned action” and the “theory of planned behavior” offer insights into the complicated world of decision-making. Professor Young illustrates when persuasion by reason is the right approach.
08: Persuading with Emotion
Fear is a powerful tool of persuasion. By studying examples from political advertising and public health campaigns, you will see how messages that are threatening can produce fear and how that can motivate us toward action. But as you will uncover, fear alone may not be enough to persuade people to act.
09: Persuading with Humor, Stories, and Framing
Shift your attention from the fearful to the funny. Consider how storytelling affects our emotions and how it can persuade us by allowing us to root for a protagonist. In a similar vein, humor and satire disarm our resistance to persuasion. Find out what happens in your mind when you hear a good joke.
10: Persuading through Social Identity
Identity has a strong hold on our lives. Self-categorization, social comparisons, and group norms are all elements of our “social identity,” which shape our attitudes in ways we might not expect. Learn how in-group and out-group thinking influence what we value, what we believe, and how we behave.
11: Propaganda and Persuasion in Social Media
The mass media of the 20th century has given way to social media in the 21st century, which creates a host of new challenges around propaganda. Delve into some of the ways digital technologies, in general, and social media, in particular, are used to spread propaganda. Learn to guard yourself against new forms of media manipulation.
12: Misinformation: Audience over Message
Beyond propaganda, conspiracy theories flourish in our age of new digital media. Survey the strategies of how false information is constructed and spread across audiences—and why conspiracy theories are different from, and more dangerous than, simple misinformation.