Psychological Warfare: Conceptual Overview

Psychological warfare can be described as a type of persuasion and propaganda in which the real force is used as its foundation. Psychological warfare is a deliberate use of various manipulations, promotion & deception techniques such as spreading propaganda & terror, to induce or reinforce attitudes that are favourable to gain strategic adventure over others. Psychological warfare (PSYWAR), or the fundamental aspects of modern psychological operations (PSYOP), have been known by many other names or terms, including MISO, PSYOPs, Heart & Mind propaganda. The term used to denote any action which is practiced mainly by psychological methods with the aim of evoking a planned psychological reaction in other people. It involves the planned use of propaganda & other psychological operations to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes & behavior of apposition groups.

In ‘Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitude’ Jacques Ellul discusses psychological warfare as a common peace policy practice between nations as a form of indirect aggression. The form of aggression is hard to defend against because no international court of justice is capable of protecting against psychological aggression since it cannot be legally adjudicated.

Psychological warfare has become a widespread & systematic technique with the support of scientific advancements made in the field of communications along with significant developments made in the area of public opinion and the prediction related to mass behavior.

Development of Psychological Warfare

Sun Tzu, a Chinese military Strategist initially said that the use of psychological warfare could achieve the best victory. The events of World War I, II, Cold War, Vietnam war reveal the significance of psychological warfare. These major war events of the 20th century have been discussed to some extent in the context of psychological warfare and the false propaganda made by the opponents.

However, psychological war has its deep origins in history as Cyrus the Great used it against Babylon. Later Philip II of Macedon effectively employed it against Athens.

After World War I & II, two superpowers emerged in the shape of sole superpower in the past lost most of the parts of its empire and struggled to search for a new role in the Europe and the world. The cold war broke around 1947 which meant the intense ideological struggle between new superpower or different life-styles involved an international propaganda struggle for mind & hearts.

A golden strategic campaign of psychological warfare of psychological warfare commenced primarily between two new superpowers or the leading contenders of the cold war that lasted almost for 40 years in which the KGB of the Soviet Union & the CIA of Us actively took part. The Americans on an overt level formed ‘United Nations Information Agency’ with the purpose to defend the campaigns of disinformation lad by numerous propaganda agencies of the Soviet Union. The focus of the Soviet Union’s propaganda policy was to bring the newly independent nation of the 3rd World War under their influences.

Thus, psychological warfare ultimately altered the entire scenario of the 20th century. It has regularly been used as a capable and dominant weapon system.

Basic Principals or Tactics used in Psychological Warfare

Various techniques are used and are aimed at influencing a target audience’s value system, belief system, emotions, motives, reasoning or behaviours. It is used to induce confessions or reinforce attitudes & behaviour favourable to the originator’s objectives & are sometimes, combined with black operations/false flag tactics. It is used to destroy the morals of enemies through tactics that aim to depress troops psychological states target audiences can be government, organisations, groups and individuals and is not, just limited to soldiers, civilians; it can also be targeted by technology & media.

Some major basic principles/ tactics are as follows:

a)     Invoke Fear : The object is to make however much dread as could reasonably be expected to make fear and fear in the psyches of the general population with the goal that they will abstain from ascending in gatherings and rather turned out to be more fragile and debilitated.

b)    Division to Confusion: When the adversary gather focused for assault is extensive, helpful and brought together in their powers, right off the bat centers around isolating them into littler units. When it is effective, the assault is then on their normal obligations of solidarity, trying to mistake them for dread and falsehood so they won’t know which approach to turn; what’s in store or whom to trust.

c)     Demoralization and Dehumanization: It is the most vital device of mental fighting and purposeful torment used to break an individual an individual. A procedure in mental fighting with the target to dissolve moral or dehumanize those apparent as the adversary by proposing to pulverize their nobility and confidence, it can urge them to withdraw, surrenders or annihilation.

d)    Ignorance Vs Intelligence: Knowledge of in all actuality control overseeing insight and controlling access to data incorporates providing the apparent foe/rival with disinformation, so as to wrong choices dependent on falsehoods.

e)     Overwhelm and wear Out: Constantly utilize more noteworthy quality in applying substantial powers that overpower the rival by making a ceaseless issue that is intended to wear him out and disintegrate his resolution and strength. Administrations unimaginable consistence, protection charge and lawful channels that keep individuals stalled in endless desk work, not insignificant records and prompts, under the danger of terrorizing or risk to monetary security.

At the point when individuals’ expectations are reviled, and their desires for their life are befuddled and loaded, in the long run, they turn out to be so depleted they have no vitality to decline the confounded endeavours of enslavement and simply surrender.

Psychological Warfare in daily life

‘’For after all how do we know that two & two make four? Alternatively, that force of gravity work? Alternatively, that the past unchangeable? If both the past and the external worlds exist only in mind, and if the mind itself in the controllable what then?’’
George Orwell

Regarding psychological warfare, not only propaganda 7 controlling, but information on persuasion, influence & manipulation benefit all aspects of people’s lives, the knowledge itself, makes it much more difficult for people to seam others lies.

Once people get good at second-guessing their opponent in all noticeable fields and manipulating the odds, things in their life will simply start to click knowing psychological warfare tactics can effectively be used in learning how to manipulate people easily and make the things move by their wish. It’s also a perfect way to get precisely what you want. It’s also an excellent way to get exactly what you want from life and operate in such a way that yourself place into a position of power without even coming into other’s awareness.

Many of the origins of psychological manipulation originate from books like Sun Tzu’s “Arts of War” and Nicolo Machiavelli’s “The Prince”. Psychological warfare tactics can be seen & even used in every aspect of human lives, just as-

  • The way teachers interact with their students
  • The way doctors, lawyers or psychologists obtain information from their patients or clients.
  • Law enforcement
  • Dating
  • Every human interaction from babies to politicians & everyone in between.

Having said this much, here the main concern is what all  can we learn from military operations, law enforcement, giant political leaders, psychologists and even children to improve our abilities to spot manipulations which are not in our best interest and the secure ourselves from such situations or people to the maximum.


Thus, Psychological Warfare as a ‘civilian activity’ primarily appreciated because of its non-lethal nature. The science of psychological warfare aims at changing attitudes which is less effective and often fails to influence.

It can make a significant contribution towards achieving the overall national objectives as well as individual’s objectives by influencing attitudes and behaviour of the affected parties to the conflict, both in times of war & peace.

Along with the need for having a disciplined, trained and well-equipped force to combat any security challenges, the requirement for a comprehensive response on a psychological plane cannot be ignored. This response must cover the entire spectrum of the socio-psychological threat in all its varied forms without losing sight of the emerging global trends.


  •  Wall, Tyler (September 2010). U.S Psychological Warfare and Civilian Targeting. United States: Vanderbilt University.  Retrieved 2015-02-11.
  •  Taylor, Philip M. (1999). British Propaganda in the Twentieth Century: Selling Democracy. Edinburgh University Press. Retrieved 2013-02-07.
  •  Divide and Conquer Tactics
  • Excerpted from the history & development- of PSYOP’s at http//
  • “The Art of Deception”: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations.
  • Wall, Tyler (September 2010), “US psychological Warfare & Civilian Targeting”.
  • Szunyogh, Bela(1955); Psychological warfare, an introduction to ideological propaganda & the techniques of psychological warfare. United States: William- Frederick Press.
  • Psychological Warfare: Wikipedia.

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