Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward L. Bernays

Crystallizing Public Opinion by Edward L. Bernays

Author:Edward L. Bernays
Language: eng
Format: epub
ISBN: 9781497698802
Publisher: Firebrand Technologies



Before defining the fundamental motivations of society, let me mention those outward signs on which psychologists base their study of conditions.

Psychological habits, or as Mr. Lippmann calls them, “stereotypes,” are shorthand by which human effort is minimized. They are so clearly and commonly understood that every one will immediately respond to the mention of the stereotype within his personal experience. The words “capitalist” or “boy scout” bring out definite images to the hearer. These images are more comprehensible than detailed descriptions. Chorus girl, woman lawyer, politician, detective, financier are clean-cut concepts and capable of definition. We all have stereotypes which minimize not only our thinking habits but also the ordinary routine of life.

Mr. Lippmann finds that the stereotypes at the center of the code by which various sections of the public live, “largely determine what group of facts we shall see and in what light we shall see them.” That is why, he says “with the best will in the world, the news policy of a journal tends to support its editorial policy, why a capitalist sees one set of facts and certain aspects of human nature—literally sees them; his socialist opponent another set and other aspects, and why each regards the other as unreasonable or perverse, when the real difference between them is a difference of perception. That difference is imposed by the difference between the capitalist and socialist pattern of stereotypes. ‘There are no classes in America,’ writes an American editor. ‘The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,’ says the Communist Manifesto. If you have the editor’s pattern in your mind, you will see vividly the facts that confirm it, vaguely and ineffectively those that contradict. If you have the communist pattern, you will not only look for different things, but you will see with a totally different emphasis what you and the editor happen to see in common.”

The stereotype is the basis of a large part of the work of the public relations counsel. Let us try to inquire where the stereotype originates—why it is so influential and why from a practical standpoint it is so tremendously difficult to affect or change stereotypes or to attempt to substitute one set of stereotypes for another.

Mr. Martin attempts to answer questions such as these in his volume on The Behavior of Crowds. By “crowds” Mr. Martin does not mean merely a physical aggregation of a number of persons. To Mr. Martin the crowd is rather a state of mind, “the peculiar mental condition which sometimes occurs when people think and act together, either immediately where the members of the group are present and in close contact, or remotely, as when people think as when they affect one another in a certain way through the medium of an organization, a party or sect, the press, etc.”

Motives of social behavior are based on individual instincts. Individual instincts, on the other hand, must yield to group needs.


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