The Issue of Reception

Motivation is essential when considering persuasion.  Knowing why an argument is being made is key to understanding the merit of that argument.  But what about the consequences?  In the long term, isn’t this what has the lasting impact?

One problem with many studies of propaganda is that they overlook the issue of reception.  In this case, analysis focuses on the tactics and methods of those producing propaganda, while overlooking how people receive and process the propaganda.  Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson (Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion) briefly address this when saying that recognizing propaganda tactics does not leave one immune to being manipulated by propaganda.  But this in itself is a vague explanation of reception.

While reception would be difficult to measure, especially in cases of propaganda’s effectiveness, there are questions that are worth considering when analyzing any specific case.

How does propaganda affect behavior?

Exactly how much of the population is in agreement with the propaganda?  Were they to begin with, or were they effectively persuaded?

What sorts of appeals are most effective to the audience?

What were the reactions of those who disagreed?

How was the propaganda received on an international basis?

Were the general consequences in accordance with the original motivations?

Or, some questions in reference to measuring reception itself:

Given the varying degrees to which people could be persuaded, how could the reception of propaganda be effectively measured?

Why isn’t this perspective generally addressed in studies of propaganda?

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