Institute for Propaganda Analysis

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The Institute for Propaganda Analysis (IPA) was a U.S.-based organization operating from 1937 to 1942, composed of social scientists, opinion leaders, historians, educators, and journalists. Created by Kirtley Mather, Edward A. Filene, and Clyde R. Miller, because of the general concern that increased amounts of propaganda were decreasing the public's ability to develop their own critical thoughts. The IPA's purpose was to spark rational thinking and provide a guide to help the public have well-informed discussions on current issues. "To teach people how to think rather than what to think." The IPA focused on domestic propaganda issues that might become possible threats to the democratic ways of life.


To get their message across, the IPA distributed flyers, wrote several issues of the Propaganda Analysis Bulletin, and published a series of books, including:

  • McClung Lee, Alfred & Briant Lee, Elizabeth, The Fine Art of Propaganda (1939)
  • Propaganda Analysis
  • Group Leader's Guide to Propaganda Analysis
  • Propaganda: How To Recognize and Deal With It

The Propaganda Analysis bulletin indirectly targeted the mass public through newspapers, educators, public officials, and opinion leaders, informing them of who controlled and influenced the flow of propaganda through various channels of communications. The IPA directly targeted the presidents and deans of national colleges, bishops and ministers, educational and religious periodicals, and education students by sending out flyers. Also, in an attempt to educate the public about how to identify propagandistic material, the IPA issued a set of methods called the "seven common propaganda devices":

  1. Name-calling
  2. Glittering generalities
  3. Transfer
  4. Testimonial
  5. Plain folks
  6. Card stacking
  7. Bandwagon

These "ABCs of Propaganda Analysis" encouraged readers to understand and analyze their own views on propagandistic material in order to promote informed, thought-provoking discussions.


The IPA proved to be popular having achieved 5,900 subscriptions to its bulletin in the first year.[citation needed] By 1939, the IPA had created flourishing, educational programs which saw high schools, colleges, and adult civic groups engaged in discussions about propaganda. One of the IPA's goals was to gain as much public support as possible and build a credible reputation. This initial success was due to the time period's obsession with propaganda.[citation needed]


The IPA faced many allegations that undermined its purpose.[citation needed] These suggested that the IPA created "more of a destructive skepticism than an intelligent reflectiveness."[citation needed] The IPA lost support from many of its publishers and also faced internal conflicts through resignations by its board members and its troubled teachers.[citation needed] The approach of World War II also posed a problem. It would force the IPA not only to examine and criticize the enemy's propaganda, but assess America's use of propaganda as well. The IPA maintains the reason it suspended its operations in 1942 was due to lack of sufficient funds and not the war.[citation needed]


While the IPA existed many people sought assistance from the organization through the many publications that were available. The process includes teaching the audience to avoid emotion while being deceived by tainted propaganda. In order to get the facts, the Institute's authors wanted the public to "adopt scientific attitudes towards all questions of fact and to accept the conclusions to which they lead as a basis for action whether he [the student of propaganda] likes them or not."[1] The IPA encouraged students to think intelligently and independently on topics which they discussed. While many hailed the IPA for its guidance, others argued that the approach was "too simplistic because many messages fell into more than one category, and they do not account for differences between members of the audience, and do not discuss the credibility of the propagandist."[1] Despite controversy, the IPA was a resource available to American citizens in hopes of enlightening and activating minds to think freely and independently.


  1. ^ a b Propaganda, How To Recognize It and Deal With It quoted Hayakawa, S. I. "General Semantics and Propaganda." The Public Opinion Quarterly 3 (1939): 197-208. JSTOR. Treadway Library, Augustana College, Rock Island, IL.
  • Garber, William. "Propaganda Analysis—to what ends?" American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 48, No. 2 (September, 1942), pp. 240–245.
  • Jowett, Garth S. & O'Donnell, Victoria. "Propaganda and Persuasion." Sage Publication Inc. Newbury Park, California 1992.
  • "Propaganda" Oct 20, 2005.
  • Sproule, Michael J. "Propaganda and Democracy: The American Experience of Media and Mass Persuasion." Cambridge University Press. New York, New York 1997.
  • Waples, Douglas. "Print, Radio, and Film in a Democracy." The University of Chicago Press. Chicago, Illinois 1941.

External links[edit]

  • offers analysis, with current and historical examples, of rhetorical tactics often used by propagandists, based on the framework developed in the 1930s by the IPA.