How Nazi propaganda influenced a nation, by Karthik Narayanaswami

Harvard student Karthik Narayanaswami provides an analysis of Nazi propaganda

In his behavioural study written while at Harvard University, Karthik Narayanaswami explains how various forms of cognitive bias were used throughout the Nazi propaganda poster campaign to help perpetuate racism and hatred across Germany.

It was only through this manipulation of the public’s morality and social perspectives that Hitler was able to lead a country to genocide.

Narayanaswami begins with the background of Hitler’s use of propaganda, first written about (by Hitler himself) in Mein Kampf.

He shows how perpetuating cognitive bias on a mass scale manipulated a society

Narayanaswami goes on to explain various types of cognitive bias used throughout the Nazi poster campaign to shape public feeling. Cognitive bias is the phenomenon shared by all humans where deviations in judgement are triggered by common day-to-day situations. There are many forms of cognitive bias to which all of us are susceptible. By exploiting stereotypes and using a calculated methodology, Hitler and Joseph Göbbels succeeded in behavioural manipulation on a national scale.

Several posters used in the Nazi campaign are presented in Narayanaswami’s essay, with an analysis of how different forms of cognitive bias were evoked through these posters. Some of the poster images are striking. The underlying psychological messages they convey are disturbing.

This essay is clear and well-written. It sheds some light on one of history’s biggest questions: how did Germany arrive at genocide?

The full essay on the Nazi’s use of propaganda can be found here

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