# of Tactics?
This portion of the Working Psychology website offers a brief
introduction to a big topic: social influence, the modern, scientific
study of persuasion, compliance, propaganda, "brainwashing,"
and the ethics that surround these issues. Although these topics
aren't always simple (it is, after all, science), I've
done my best to make this introduction interesting.
Since Aristotle recorded his principles of persuasion in Rhetoric,
humans have attempted to define and refine the principles of
successful influence. Persuasion has been studied as an art for
most of human history.
The comparatively young science of social influence,
however, can trace its roots to the second world war, when a
social psychologist named Carl Hovland was contracted by the
U.S. Armed Forces to bolster the morale of soldiers. President
Roosevelt was concerned that Americans would lose the will to
fight after winning victory in Europe. It was Hovland's job to
motivate soldiers to continue fighting against Japan. Since World
War II, social influence has become a vastly expanding field
of study devoted to discovering the principles that determine
our beliefs, create our attitudes, and move us to action.
In this introduction, I approach the topic of influence from
a scientific viewpoint--you won't hear me talking about my hunches,
fabricating entertaining distinctions, constructing pseudo-scientific
systems, or offering anecdotes as substitutes for hard evidence.
Social scientists attempt to support any assertion with facts.
As empiricists, we don't guess, we test-- and the result
of decades of testing, by thousands of scientists who study human
behavior, has yielded a rich body of knowledge--facts!--on how
and why people are persuaded by another person's arguments, or
decide to comply with another person's request. This website
presents a very small fraction of what is known about influence
by today's influence experts.
Want a few examples of how social influence works in the real
world before you continue? Please proceed
. . .
Copyright © 2002 by Kelton Rhoads, Ph.D.
All rights reserved.
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