Learning curves, forgetting curves, adjacency and the scientific roots of the black art of propaganda.
Modern rules of propaganda have their roots in Über das Gedächtnis - On Memory, published by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885. In 'On Memory', Hermann Ebbinghaus described experiments which he performed on himself concerning learning and forgetting. A related study concerned the serial positioning effect. He also described what I will call here 'active learning' and 'passive learning'. The difference is the same as that between looking and seeing; between listening and hearing. Active learning is the process of acquiring knowledge or skill as a result of a conscious intent to learn. Passive learning is the process of acquiring knowledge or skill where the acquisition of the knowledge or skill was not deliberately intended by the learner.
Passive learning is how infants learn to talk. The ability to learn passively remains active in adults. Propagandists and indoctrinators know this. Most people don't. Thus they fail to notice if they are being subtly nudged into selecting an agendist's choice of action and think that they are acting of their own free will.
Knowledge of the human learning and forgetting processes is empowering.
There are subtle ways in which linguistic or spatial adjacency effects can influence learning and forgetting.
There are subtle ways in which the selective presentation of data in serial or parallel modes can influence learning and forgetting.
Unfortunately, in-depth study of the topic is incredibly boring to most people. That is why it is usually only propagandists who are empowered by this knowledge of cognitive effects.
Before I begin to discuss the methods of propaganda I want to give you some examples to analyze for hidden messages or propagandist trickery. Test your instincts.
1 - We must not rush to judgment: we must first examine all the facts.
2 - Everybody knows that the world is round.
3 - A genuine extract from a Crown Court transcript. The judge's final words in summing up a criminal case in which the defendant's defense against a specimen charge of assaulting two police officers out of about twelve involved in the incident was that he was the true victim of an entirely unprovoked assault by the police officers and that they had manufactured the case against him:
The headbutt, there was no complaint, I have dealt with that already. There is no evidence of the slight bruising or redness that he saw in the mirror and no complaint. Does that not indicate that allegation is an invented allegation and that there was no headbutt, which is of course what the defence say?
Of course it is also said there was no summons and no charge in respect of any of the earlier allegations; that is to say the speeding allegation or the absence of a tax disc. Well again you must give that matter your consideration and see what you make of it in the context of the allegation that the police did not act in good faith.
Well there it is members of the jury.
What is wrong with these three statements - and the judge's summing up - in any context of science, law, lies or logic? Is there any propagandist content anywhere else in this article?
I will pause here for comments and questions, and will address them before proceeding.