Psychological warfare

Other Names:
Covert psychological warfare operations
Clandestine psychological warfare

A war of nerves, of misinformation, of exaggeration, but also of communication of truth, accompanies a war of armies and weapons. The targets are not fortifications or lines of men, but minds, and these may be those of the enemy's soldiers, its military leadership, its civilian leaders, or its populace, including children.


The forms of psychological warfare are various. They include the instilling of fear by the demonstration or use of terrible weapons even though in some cases these are not in production or are experimental. Leaflets can be dropped behind enemy lines with misinformation or facts on how their side is losing the war on other fronts. Radio broadcasts to the enemy homeland or soldiers in the field may use traitors to urge pacifism or surrender and to demoralize the civilian population. The authorities may start rumours to weaken the opposition or strengthen the unity of supporters. They may compare the enemy's high standard of civilian comforts during the conflict to the soldiers' own privations. At home, governments make propaganda statements and the media are exploited to misinform and exaggerate information concerning the progress of the war. Psychologists are employed to develop propaganda and other techniques to influence mass behaviour.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
Problem Type:
C: Cross-sectoral problems
Date of last update
14.05.2022 – 12:11 CEST