Psyops or Psychological Operations are initiatives which convey information to audiences in order to alter their thinking and behaviour. Psyops work by manipulating the emotions, motivations, and objective reasoning of the audience it is directed at. The purpose of Psyops is to induce or reinforce attitudes and behaviours in its targets that are beneficial to the sponsor organisation.
Whilst the two concepts are often used interchangeably, Psychological Warfare (PSYWAR) refers to an overarching campaign incorporating many different facets, including Psyops, Misinformation, Disinformation and Propaganda; whereas Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) is used more to describe specific military operations and the tactical units which practice them.
As a technique of Propaganda, Psyops can also be subject to similar classification systems depending on the degree of transparency of the source. If the correct sponsor of the Psychological Operations is disclosed to its audience, it can be considered White Propaganda. If a Psyops campaign is carried out without identifying or by actively obscuring the source of the campaign, it can be considered Grey Propaganda. When Psychological Operations are sponsored by one source, but are deceptively claiming to be from another, they can be considered Black Propaganda. In all of these instances, the information conveyed as part of the Psychological Operations can be true or false.
Psychological Operations are often a key aspect of many nations’ military strategies during both peace and wartime. From a military perspective Psyops can work to crush the morale of enemy troops, reduce their combat efficiency, and sow dissidence within their ranks. Effective Psyops initiatives can also promote resistance in a civilian population against a hostile Government or enhance the image of a foreign power .
Types of PSYOPS
Tactical Psychological Operations are addressed toward a specific opposition fighting force in a particular battlefield, aiming to influence their morale, combat effectiveness and behaviour in a short-scale combat situation.
Strategic Psychological Operations are large-scale initiatives that comprise part of a carefully planned long-term campaign. They are directed at much larger target audiences than Tactical Psyops, aiming to influence public opinion.
Consolidation Psychological Operations aim to aid friendly civil and military forces strengthen their influence over an environment. This can include maintaining law and order, re-establishing governance, and aiding with disaster relief in both occupied and liberated areas.
- Military.com, PSYOPS: Defining US Psyops
- Frank Goldstein and Benjamin Findley, ed., (1996), Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies: Broad review of US Military view on Psyops
- Wikipedia, Psychological Operations (United States): US Psyops
- Ed Rouse, Psychological Operations/Warfare: Brief look at the history of Psyops
- Online Psychology Degree, PSYOPS – Wars Are Fought On and Off the Battlefield: Infographic on Psyops
- Military.com, PSYOPS, Military.com website, accessed 16 March 2015
- Debra Kelly (2014), The Difference Between Gray, White And Black Propaganda, KnowledgeNuts website, 12 February 2014, accessed 17 March 2015
- Frank Goldstein and Benjamin Findley, ed., (1996), Psychological Operations: Principles and Case Studies, Alabama: Air University Press
- Ed Rouse, Psychological Operations/Warfare, Psywarrior website, accessed 17 March 2015