Chapter 8: On the Origins of Propaganda: Bio-Cultural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Social Cohesion

This chapter recasts propaganda as a socially evolved trait that helps to establish identity and social cohesion. Propaganda emerged as the organization of human groups grew beyond those linked by genetic kinship and toward ones connected by shared ideas and beliefs. By generating cognitive dissonance, propaganda builds upon a reliance on identity systems. Experiments that examine the neurotransmitters oyxtocin, vasopressin and serotonin provides a physiological explanation for the effects of propaganda. This chapter illuminates the use of propaganda in constructive memory formation, altruistic punishment, recursion, diplomatic speech, advertising, and many other forms of socialization.

Bob Schapiro is a journalist and filmmaker whose current China documentary won an Emmy Award in New York City, where he has written and produced newscasts for WCBS and WNBC. He also reported from El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Lebanon, and, more recently, from Afghanistan. He wrote and directed Pirates of New York with Walter Cronkite and Geisha, Keisha and American Pie. His varied writing career includes credits for several national commercials and an off-Broadway revue. He teaches at Fordham University in the Department of Communication and Media Studies and is completing his PhD dissertation at Drew University. E-mail:

Stanley H. Ambrose received his PhD in anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1984. Following post-doctoral research at UCLA on isotopic analysis of the evolution of the human diet, he joined the anthropology faculty at the University of Illinois, where he heads the Environmental Isotope Paleobiogeochemistry Laboratory. He conducts archaeological, paleoanthropological, geological, and ecological research in Kenya, Ethiopia, and India and laboratory research on environmental and dietary reconstruction with stable isotopes. His current research focuses on the evolution of modern human capacities for cooperation, planning, and language and the environmental, demographic, and evolutionary impacts of the Toba supereruption.



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