Eastern Mennonite University
Anthony Pratkanis

Anthony Pratkanis, EMU class of 1979 and the 2009 "alumnus of the year," expounds on his alma mater:

"The Anabaptist values of simple lifestyle, emphasis on conflict resolution, and respect for every human being result in an educational curriculum that provides students the skills to address the global problems we face today and in turn provides hope to those who most need it.

That is why I came to EMC, and that is why the teaching and research that goes on at EMU today is of vital importance for the world community."

2009 "Alumnus of the Year"

Leading Expert in Propaganda

Anthony Pratkanis, EMU class of 1979

Upon learning that he had been chosen "alumnus of the year" for 2009, Anthony Pratkanis '79 responded humbly to the EMU office of alumni relations with these words: "Recently, the alumni magazine has been featuring the accomplishments of EMU alumni. Each of their stories and each of their achievements tell the value of an EMU education. I am honored to be associated with EMU alumni who have done so much for their and the world's community."

These remarks come from a man who has been cited or appeared in the mass media on more than 500 occasions, including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Dateline NBC, CBS News, C-Span, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, Newsweek, the Jim Lehrer Newshour, National Public Radio, and South China Morning Post, Hong Kong's biggest English-language newspaper. His research has been translated into 10 languages.

Anthony Pratkanis's expertise on power and influence is accessible to the public via his bestselling book Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion (co-authored with Elliot Aronson and issued as a revised edition in 2001).

A Library Journal review of the book (posted on amazon.com) said: "Psychologists Pratkanis and Aronson present a thorough overview of how individuals and the mass media manipulate us using devious persuasive techniques... The authors' quarrel with persuasive communication today is that, rather than using logical argument, it uses emotional symbols to manipulate us... While a large portion of the book is devoted to advertising techniques, the authors also examine media coverage of the Gulf War, cult leaders, and political elections. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries."

Pratkanis earned a PhD in social psychology from Ohio State University in 1984. He began his career in the business school at Carnegie-Mellon University where he taught popular courses in advertising and consumer behavior. Since 1987 Pratkanis has been a psychology professor at the University of California, Santa Cruz, where he has been awarded for excellence in teaching.

In 2006, Pratkanis became founding editor of the academic journal Social Influence. He is also a co-editor of Attitude Structure and Function, Social Psychology, The Science of Social Influence, and a past associate editor for the Journal of Consumer Psychology. His research program has investigated such topics as the delayed effects of persuasion, attitudes and memory, groupthink, affirmative action, subliminal persuasion, mass communications, source credibility, persuasion and democracy, and a variety of influence tactics such as the pique technique, phantoms, the projection tactic, the 1-in-5 prize tactic, and altercasting. Earlier, in 1995, he was elected a fellow of the American Psychological Association and most recently a fellow of the Association for Psychological Science. In addition to his scientific research, Pratkanis believes it is important to give this research to those who most need it - a lesson he says he learned while at Eastern Mennonite.

Over the last 10 years, Pratkanis has worked with AARP, FINRA, and with various civic groups and law enforcement agencies on strategies for preventing economic fraud crimes. This work has led to the development of call centers and educational materials that are capable of reducing victimization as a result of fraud by over 50 percent. In 2002, Pratkanis received a Telly award for his work as a scientific consultant on AARP's video, Weapons of Fraud. He has testified before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission about what can be done to prevent economic fraud crimes.

Pratkanis has also served as an expert witness in court cases. His testimony on subliminal persuasion at the trial of CBS Records/ Judas Priest was instrumental in winning that case for the defense. He served as an expert witness on behalf of the State of Oregon in their case against Publisher's Clearing House and the State of California in their cases against MCI/Worldcom and Cingular Wireless.

At the beginning of this year, he was called by the State of Vermont to testify in their case against R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, which made the claim that their Eclipse cigarettes were a "safer way to smoke." The verdict in this case is still pending.

He has also served as a consultant on persuasion and influence to two U.S. Presidential campaigns, various ballot races, and to government agencies on countering the propaganda of terrorists and dictators and on reducing conflict in war zones.

Concerning his undergraduate days, Pratkanis says: "I received an outstanding education at EMC, as we called it back then, from some very dedicated teachers. That education has served me well over the last 30 years." Pratkanis has been a loyal contributor to his alma mater since the 1990s.

"When I look at what EMU is today, I see a university that continues this tradition of excellence and continues to promote Anabaptist values that only increase in significance as our planet burns with global climate change and the outbursts of genocide. The Anabaptist values of simple lifestyle, emphasis on conflict resolution, and respect for every human being result in an educational curriculum that provides students the skills to address the global problems we face today and in turn provides hope to those who most need it. That is why I came to EMC, and that is why the teaching and research that goes on at EMU today is of vital importance for the world community."