Introduction to Attitudes
The process of persuasion is such an ever-present aspect of our daily lives that we often fail to even notice its occurrence. From the moment you are awakened in the morning by the friendly voices on the clockradio (who are likely telling you how to smell good, get rid of your dandruff, have whiter teeth) until you go to bed at night, you may have been exposed to over a hundred influence attempts. As you eat your breakfast (while reading the back of the cereal box or glancing at a newspaper ad for a presidential candidate), walk or ride the bus to school or work (and see various billboards along the way), go shopping (where the sales clerk tells you how wonderful the sweater looks that you are trying on), talk to a friend (who tells you how good a new record album is), or go to a movie (where there will be previews of future movies), somebody is attempting to get you to change your mind about something. Even Sunday is not a day of rest from persuasion: on this day, thousands of ministers deliver persuasive messages in an attempt to inculcate certain values.
Of course, it is not only individuals who try to persuade each other--the dissemination of propaganda is often part of corporate or government policy. For example, Time magazine ( 10 July 1978, p. 68) reports that in one typical month in 1969 at the height of the American involvement in the Vietnam war, the United States dropped 713 million propaganda leaflets over that country. Although most American citizens were aware of the war being fought with bombs and bullets, few were aware of the extensive war of persuasion being conducted as well. Persuasion attempts have always been an integral part of psychological warfare. Box 1.1 presents an example of a propaganda leaflet employed by Nazi Germany in an attempt to destroy the morale of U.S. troops during World War II.
The goal of propaganda is to change other people's views in order to further one's own cause or damage an opposing one. Propaganda is sometimes viewed as a biased form of education ( Zimbardo, Ebbesen, & Maslach, 1977). The goal of education is to teach a person certain factual information (e.g., Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States) and to teach a person how to think logically so that the person will be capable of making up his or her own mind. The goal of propaganda is to teach nonfactual information or to make opinion appear as fact (e.g, Washington, D.C., is the loveliest capital city in the world).