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Title: When Propaganda Resonates
Authors: Shen, Xiaoxiao
Advisors: Truex, Rory
Contributors: Politics Department
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines how propaganda works through speaking to people’s psychological needs (in the case of China). The existing literature on propaganda in authoritarian systems is largely focused on top-down strategies, such as whether propaganda persuades or intimidates, and how effective different sources of propaganda and types of propaganda content are. The scholarship examines propaganda from the bottom-up looks into how individual traits result in various propaganda effects, but it mostly examines demographics like education levels, family backgrounds, political awareness, and whether theindividual lives in an urban or rural area. The literature overlooks the power of psychological yearnings deep within people’s hearts. My project proposes a novel bottom-up perspective by exploring how propaganda works through resonating with the psychological needs that people who are exposed to the propaganda have. The four chapters of my dissertation includes a proposal for a new definition of propaganda and unique ways to categorize propaganda. Supervised machine learning was also adopted to classify the varieties of propaganda, and how they are designed to appeal to specific psychological needs. I explored how propaganda messages worked through appealing to individuals’ different psychological needs. Using China as a case study example, this project found through three studies that as each person has their own different psychological needs, propaganda works the best when the psychological need it is designed to appeal to matches the psychological need an individual strongly felt. Going deeper, propaganda news aimed at appealing to ego-defensive needs (i.e. the psychological need to maintain self-esteem) is particularly effective for the Chinese population, in general. But it is unlikely — at least in the short term — to change individuals’ psychological needs enough to alter their information-seeking behaviors and pro-regime attitudes. Going beyond experiments and text analyses, Chapter 6 presents archival research on China’s one-child policy.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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