Above you’ll see three American World War II posters designed to discourage servicemen involved in any faction of the war to avoid releasing any classified information that may be used by the enemy countries against them. There are obvious linguistic techniques used here to make the advertising effective, such as the use of rhyme to make the lines memorable (Reece, Van den Bergh & Li, 1994). The psychological tactics used are more powerful.
Firstly, these posters have a fear appeal (Pratkanis, 2007). This influences those who see it by linking the undesired action of ‘telling secrets’ with the avoidance of an undesirable outcome (here, negative outcomes for your country in the war). Fear encourages people to avoid certain actions to avoid danger and escape the feeling of fear.
Additionally, guilt is another useful social tactic used in these posters (Pratkanis, 2007). Guilt instils a feeling of responsibility for your offences. It can also increase the rate of compliance as seen by Carlsmith and Gross (1969) who found that embarrassed participants were more likely to support a ‘Save the Redwoods’ project if they experienced guilt beforehand.
Both of these techniques matched the sombre and severe tone of World War II and efficiently instilled a strong value in the USA using only few words and simple, strong images.
- - Carlsmith, J., & Gross, A. (1969). Some effects of guilt on compliance. Journal Of Personality And Social Psychology, 11(3), 232-239.
- - Pratkanis, A. R. (2007). Social influence analysis: An index of tactics. In A. R. Pratkanis (Ed.), Frontiers of social psychology. The science of social influence: Advances and future progress (pp. 17-82). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.
- - Reece, B., Van den Bergh, B., & Li, H. (1994). What Makes a Slogan Memorable and Who Remembers It. Journal Of Current Issues & Research In Advertising, 16(2), 41-57.