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Consequently, the fact that a persuasive message, directed to a hostile
a target, scores high on an initial test with prisoners of war or defectors, does not necessarily mean that it will “bring them in.” As stated, the social environment in the prisoner-of-war camp is different from that of the target area. In addition, those selected for testing are usually neutral or friendly to the source; they are not in a hostile communication environment; and their primary group will usually be sympathetic toward the source. Hence, while they may be fair subjects for testing some kinds of communication (that is, general information messages), they are not suitable for testing certain persuasive messages. This is also true of political refugees.
Alfred de Grazia, who made a thorough study (1953) of target analysis and propaganda media, states that:
Although frequently useful as sources of intelligence concerning events and conditions in areas inaccessible to psychological warfare, they (POWs) may not share the attitudes and temper of their former compatriots. The very fact that they chose to flee, and are now situated in such different surroundings affects their perspec
tive and reduces their value as pretest subjects.8 De Grazia also stressed that in testing there are no definitive rules. Each instance is unique, and before an estimate can be made of the reliability of a proposed test, careful consideration must be given to the nature of the communication, the type of subjects available, and the overall psychological atmosphere in which the test is to be conducted.
The following paragraphs will discuss some techniques that are used to test or obtain feedback in PSYOP communications. In addition to testing, the techniques are used for other purposes such as attitude measurement. Four techniques will be discussed: (a) the general sample survey, (b) the panel as a survey tool, (c) the in-depth interview, and (d) informal media testing as part of an interrogation or interview.
The General Sample Survey
The sample survey is perhaps the one best systematic method for determining effects of media content. Its application in military PSYOP is, of course, limited to those targets that are accessible to the surveyors. Certainly, in an insurgency environment, this technique can be used more frequently than in conventional military siutations.
The sample survey is usually conducted during and after the PSYOP campaign. By asking significant questions of a relatively small sample of persons, scientifically selected to insure a certain representativeness, the survey can obtain highly accurate information on the percentage of the audience actually reached by various communication channels, and how the audience is responding to the communication. The purposes of the survey technique in PSYOP testing are to determine if the messages are understood, to obtain clues about the credibility of content, to determine if the message evokes the desired response, and finally, to find out whether it has provoked any undesirable effects.
In considering the use of surveys in an insurgent environment, it is pertinent to note certain observations made by one of America's leading attitude research organizations. In its introduction to a 1967 attitude survey conducted by the Center for Vietnamese Studies, this firm commented that one major problem would be respondent suspicion of interviewer motives. As a result, it was thought respondents might alter their answers. 9 Such data can either be taken as a direct indication of the sample population's attitudes and beliefs or
the data can be interpreted comparatively. That is, the majority of the respondents need not express a particular attitude for it to be regarded as an important finding. Whether a given datum is meaningful or not depends in part on the degree of support derived from other parts of the same study. To utilize this more modest definition of the study is to say that the findings can yield considerable insight into the feelings of the people but will provide projectable information on the whole population within fairly broad tolerance limits. 10 (Emphasis added.) Finally, the study concluded that the interviews did constitute an acceptable reflection of reality. 11
There is no doubt that there are many problems in polling overseas. In some countries, it is not feasible to go into the countryside; in others, especially those with autocratic governments, the population is afraid to answer questions, telling interviewers, when they do talk, what they think their government would like to hear them say. The best clues of the extent of bias are to be found in the survey findings themselves. Thus, for example, there have been surveys taken in semipolice states which revealed montonously regular approval of all government actions at close to the 95 percent level, clearly suggesting the absence of freedom of expression.
The United Sstates Information Agency is primarily responsible for conducting attitude surveys overseas. The world opinion surveys conducted by USIA are especially significant to PSYOP communication. They are available and used by other agencies of the government, including the Department of State, the Agency for International Development, the Department of Defense, and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. The surveys cover questions from basic values to specific reactions to programs, media, or activities. Interviewing is usually done by indigenous personnel, sometimes by locally run public opinion organizations, and administered by contract professionals under the guidance of USIA staff personnel. Thomas Sorenson notes that a "confidential" policy statement spells out the use of surveys by USIA as follows:
We use the public opinion poll abroad, in concert with other methods, to measure (1) understanding of and support for important U.S. policies and actions, (2) the standing in the public mind of the U.S. compared to ... other nations with respect to relative military power, scientific progress, economic growth, and the like, (3) attitudes on questions and personalities of significance to this country in the conduct of its foreign affairs, (4) the aspirations, fears and prejudices of the USIA target audiences, and (5) the importance and credibility of the various communications media in different countries for different audiences. 12 (Emphasis added.)
The scientifically planned survey is an important tool in providing data and material for the answers to PSYOP EEI and in testing the contents of PSYOP communications. It is important, however, that the surveys be programed for the widest variety of urban rural targets.
It is apparent that use of sampling procedures and implementation of attitude or opinion polls requires demographic data and professional skills. It is beyond the scope of this essay to consider the tools of field research and the specific techniques of the sample survey. The Panel as a Survey Tool
The panel is a group of people chosen to represent in a scientific way some larger population segment. The difference between the panel as a testing or measuring instrument and the survey is that the panel involves interviewing the same population segment not just once but repeatedly at regular intervals.
This technique allows for the gathering of a great amount of relevant data, and provides for a better comparison of long-run and short-run effects on attitudes and behavior. The validity of the results is highly dependent on the scientific selection of the panel to insure that it represents a demographic cross section of the target or targets. 13 For example, the requirement might be for a series of panels that scientifically represents the major social groups and subgroups. These could include separate panels for communication directed to urban civilians, rural civilians, enemy military and paramilitary forces, refugees, and the like.
The survey method of data collection requires free access to the audience, with the members being checked for psychological representativeness. That is, are they the best and most recent sample available to represent the psychological environment of the target audience? It also requires skilled handling of what is called the “interviewer effect," that is, biases introduced into the responses of the panel members as a result of their repeated interviewing and consequent heightened awareness of the issues.
The In-depth Interview
An important technique used to obtain PSYOP intelligence, the indepth interview is primarily used for post-testing and measuring attitude change and effect. Essentially, the in-depth interview is an outgrowth of the psychoanalytic interview, but is somewhat more directive, and of course not therapeutic in its aim.
During World War II, Dr. Henry V. Dicks (LTC,Royal British Medical Corps) was the first military psychiatrist to use in-depth interviews to support PSYOP programs. As in the psychoanalytic interview, the objective is to put the respondent at ease and get him to express himself as freely as possible on the subject at hand. If the interview is to progress satisfactorily, the psychological atmosphere must be permissive, and the respondent must be made to feel that nothing he says will be "used against him” or embarrass him in any way.
The purpose of the in-depth interview is to give insights into the deeper meanings that some objects and events hold for the respondent and to clarify the psychological process and mechanisms by which these meanings are formed, perpetuated, and changed. In order to gain insights of this kind from the in-depth interview, the interviewer must possess considerable psychological sophistication as well as a good grounding in the principles of modern dynamic psychology. Clumsy and aimless indepth interviewing produces nothing, and its indiscriminate application by amateurs can result in more confusion than insight.
Informal Media Testing
The testing techniques discussed, to this point, are very sophisticated and require technical knowledge in both the planning and implementation of their use. Surveys and in-depth interviews should be methodically planned and tested prior to implementation. This takes time—something often lacking to a PSYOP programmer. Often an immediate test or evaluation of a leaflet or other item of communication is required. Therefore, if operational pressures do not permit the use of the formal techniques discussed above, the PSYOP programmer might elect to test the communication informally on:
Members of his local national staff, or
An accidental sample of prisoners or returness, or on all three At times, informal testing or evaluation is accomplished after a leaflet is printed and distributed.
One respondent, a 22-year-old former Viet Cong and teacher of "politics, culture, and indoctrination," made the following significant comments concerning PSYOP leaflets:
I propose that you use suitable terms in preparation of leaflets. It is natural that both sides try to abuse each other but we must speak ill of our opponent in an elegant manner. The picture must adhere to the truth because the readers will compare them with reality. If they find out that the leaflets are excessive, they will lose confidence. Most of the men from North Vietnam have a good culture and their general education level is equivalent to Junior High School, therefore, they can make a clear cut observation and analysis. Thus special attention must be paid to the text as well as to the pictures in the leaflet and efforts made to adhere to the
truth as far as possible. 14 This kind of feedback, obtained during an interrogation or interview, is useful to PSYOP media programmers. As noted before, however, it must be considered together with other data. 15
Measuring the Effects of Communication
Measuring the effects of PSYOP communication is, of course, primarily of interest to commanders, planners, and communicators. The effect of communication is directly related to its purpose. It is difficult to learn the effect of persuasive communications, especially about targets in hostile areas, because, apart from the question of audience accessibility, media effects are so diffuse and so variable in character that they defy simple analysis or uniform description. A complete inventory of the prerequisites needed to measure effects of PSYOP programs is yet to be formulated. In this regard, de Grazia presents some idea of the complexity:
... responses to communications may be specific or general in nature; they may be of short or long duration; they may be of high or low intensity. In some instances a communication may produce a significant change in attitude with no accompanying change in observable behavior. In other instances, behavior appears to change markedly without any appreciable change in attitudes. Some intended effects may be produced in some people by carefully planned messages. In other audiences, the same messages may produce precisely opposite effects, or no effects at all. In short, the question that is of most interest to the psychological warfare operator, namely, that as to the target's intellectual and emotional responses to his messages, is still largely unanswered by students of the human sciences. 16 (Emphasis added.)
Although assessment is difficult, the data-gathering techniques and procedures discussed in the previous paragraphs are relevant in discovering whether communication media stimulated behavior or had a measurable effect on restructuring attitudes. As stated previously, it is important to consider attitudes as gradients or points along a continuous scale.
In analyzing the effect of PSYOP communication and strategy, there are many considerations. A partial list of the variables includes:
a. The type and location of the target
is apparent that a PSYOP campaign that is given unlimited
limited effort.) d. The degree to which the messages conform to group standards. The techniques discussed in regard to target analysis and communication testing are applicable in measuring the effect of PSYOP programs. Where possible, a combination of data-gathering techniques should be employed. Some social psychologists profess that it is rarely possible to predict action behavior from "paper and pencil" (survey) responses. However, Samuel Flowerman maintains that:
since all measurements, even in the physical sciences, are indirect measurements, we commit no violence to scientific method by urging additional criteria for estimating effectiveness of protolerance propaganda. ... (Perhaps effectiveness in social psychology is like infinity in mathematics; we may approach it but never attain it. Yet this does not stop us from making progress.). . . . We can accept as evidence the satisfaction of a reasonable number and kinds of criteria of effectiveness. Such reasoning would also enable us to make better comparisons between two different sets of propaganda symbols. 17
Criteria of Effectiveness
Six indicators of the effectiveness of PSYOP will be discussed.
1. Immediate Recall. Other things being equal, the content of messages that are immediately recalled is more effective than that of messages that are not recalled (forgotten).
However, it appears that unfavorable messages as well as highly favorable messages are liable to be remembered.