Psychological Warfare

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Psychological warfare involves the planned use of propaganda and other psychological operations to influence the opinions, emotions, attitudes, and behavior of opposition groups. RAND has studied military information support operations (MISO) in many countries and war zones and has provided objective and supportable recommendations to policymakers on methods and tactics to employ or defend against these operations.

  • Report

    Chinese Next-Generation Psychological Warfare

    China is interested in both advanced computing and brain science to expand and improve its psychological warfare capabilities. How might this affect U.S.-China dynamics in peacetime competition, crisis, and conflict?

    Jun 1, 2023

  • Commentary

    The Trouble with Russian Blacklisting

    Analysis, informed by interactions with Russians, offers Western leaders a window into Russia. Blacklists hinder this process. With the stakes so high, much depends on experts' success in getting their analysis right.

    Dec 15, 2022

Explore Psychological Warfare

  • M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks of the 3rd Armored Division move out on a mission during Operation Desert Storm, February 15, 1991, photo by PHC D. W. HOLMES II/U.S. Navy

    Commentary

    Assemble the Bodyguard of Lies: Strengthening U.S. Military Deception Capabilities

    Few aspects of warfare are as valuable as efforts to deceive adversaries. The U.S. military inevitably will face rivals who use deception to their advantage, so it should once again hone its own subterfuge skills—from the lowest levels, to gain a tactical edge, to the highest, to achieve strategic surprise.

    Apr 11, 2024

  • Illustration of data coming from a cell phone superimposed over Chinese and American flags, images by David Peperkamp/Getty Images and somemeans/Adobe Stock

    Report

    AI-Powered Information Warfare in the Indo-Pacific

    Advanced artificial intelligence technologies could enhance China's ability to conduct information operations at an unprecedented scale and sophistication. Collaboration with partner nations is crucial for sharing intelligence, building a collective understanding of threats, and coordinating responses.

    Mar 14, 2024

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    PLA Social Media Warfare and the Cognitive Domain

    The article explores how the Chinese military has come to recognize the important role of social media in modern conflict and peacetime operations through its discussions of "social media warfare."

    Feb 2, 2024

  • Online profile icons with scattered icons in red, photo by DamnwellMedia/Getty Images

    Testimony

    China's Developing Use of Generative AI in Influence Operations

    There are many reasons to be concerned that China's military will use generative AI to enhance its influence operations to undermine the democratic process in the United States and around the world. What can U.S. policymakers do to counter China's social media manipulation and other IO efforts?

    Feb 1, 2024

  • A large illustration of a stamp seen in downtown Kyiv, October 9, 2022, photo by Danylo Antoniuk/ZUMA Press Wire

    Report

    Who's Winning the Information War in Ukraine?

    Many prominent Western news outlets and policymakers have concluded that Ukraine is winning the information war. Are Ukraine's information campaigns, in fact, more persuasive than Russia's? If so, why?

    Oct 12, 2023

  • An aerial combat camera craftsman poses during Scorpion Lens 23, an annual training event at Joint Base Charleston, South Carolina, March 15, 2023, photo by Tech. Sgt. Devin Nothstine/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Planning Ethical Influence Operations

    Influence efforts should seek legitimate military outcomes, be necessary, employ means that are not harmful, have high likelihood of success, and should not generate effects beyond what is intended. Those that do not satisfy all criteria might still be justified if the expected benefit outweighs the harm.

    Aug 11, 2023

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a joint news conference with Indonesian President Joko Widodo in Moscow, Russia, June 30, 2022, photo by Alexander Zemlianichenko/Reuters

    Report

    Russia's Evolving Use of Information Confrontation

    Information confrontation is the use of offensive or defensive informational means to achieve political, economic, or military objectives. Russian strategy likens information weapons with weapons of mass destruction since both have the potential to reshape the international system. The Ukraine experience offers insights into Russia's tactics.

    Aug 18, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Russian and Ukrainian Perspectives on the Concept of Information Confrontation: Translations, 2002–2020

    This volume compiles texts from leading members of the military-scientific communities in Russia and Ukraine and illustrates how decisionmakers in these countries understand and debate information weapons and information influence.

    Aug 18, 2022

  • Illustration of network connections over Earth, image by Anton Balazh/Adobe Stock

    Report

    Russia's Information Warfare with the West

    Popular portrayals of the Russian disinformation machine imply an organized and well-resourced operation, but evidence suggests that it is neither. Nonetheless, Russian social media activity can be harmful to U.S. interests and is likely to evolve.

    Jun 7, 2022

  • Report

    Report

    Do National Security Communication Campaigns Work? Taking a Lesson from the Public Health Sector

    Through a systematic review of research on public health communication campaigns, the authors identified insights relevant to national security communication campaigns, such as those conducted by the U.S. Army's psychological operations forces.

    May 10, 2022

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Decoding Crimea: Pinpointing the Influence Strategies of Modern Information Warfare

    For this paper we write about information in warfare from the perspective of Strategic Communications (StratCom) and the pursuits of the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence.

    Feb 2, 2022

  • Tool

    Tool

    Command Narrative Smart Guide

    This quick reference provides the big-picture basics for successful command narrative development and deployment.

    Nov 15, 2021

  • Young man wearing virtual reality headset and trying to touch something, 3d rendering, photo by U.S. Marine Corps/Lance Cpl. Drake NickelsAdobe Stock/Sergey Nivens; Cover design by Pete Soriano

    Report

    Developing, Disseminating, and Assessing Command Narrative: Anchoring Command Efforts on a Coherent Story

    Drawing on the scientific literature and lessons learned from the joint force, the authors of this report describe best practices for the effective use of command narrative.

    Nov 15, 2021

  • Report

    Report

    Countering Russia: The Role of Special Operations Forces in Strategic Competition

    This report establishes a strategic framework for U.S. Army special operations forces support to countering Russian activities in the competition space.

    Nov 8, 2021

  • Tool

    Tool

    Handbook for Tactical Operations in the Information Environment

    With its quick-reference format and series of illustrative vignettes, this handbook facilitates problem-solving and highlights how early-career officers in tactical units can contribute to operations in the information environment.

    Oct 4, 2021

  • Marines with Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command pose for photos in the cyber operations center at Lasswell Hall

    Report

    Chinese Disinformation Efforts on Social Media

    The authors identify key Chinese practices and the supporting infrastructure and conditions that successful social media disinformation campaigns require, concluding that China is using Taiwan as a test bed for developing attack vectors.

    Jul 19, 2021

  • Capt. Sarah Miller and Tech. Sgt. Carrol Brewster discuss options in response to a staged cyber attack during filming of a scene for an AFRC mission video at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, June 1, 2019, photo by Maj. Christopher Vasquez/U.S. Air Force

    Report

    Combating Foreign Disinformation on Social Media

    Disinformation campaigns on social media pose a nuanced threat. But much of the U.S. response remains ad hoc and uncoordinated. It's unclear who has the edge moving forward, because disinformation techniques and countermeasures are evolving simultaneously.

    Jul 19, 2021

  • Journal Article

    Journal Article

    Exploring Chinese Military Thinking on Social Media Manipulation Against Taiwan

    This article addresses a gap in the current policy discussion, provides evidence of Chinese military planning for covert manipulation of Taiwanese social media, and explores how its interest in and tactics for social media manipulation have evolved over time.

    May 19, 2021