The purpose of this study is twofold:
1) to describe the functions performed by symbols and slogans in communicating ideas and
2) to quantify the responses of selected groups to contemporary controversial slogans and symbols.
Method: The study is limited to four concepts which include
1) “Make love, not war”,
2) “America, love
it or leave it”,
3) the “peace symbol”, and
4) the American flag.
Five groups of people were chosen to take the test including
1) young people at Lee Park in Dallas and at North Texas State University, 2) adults at a Unitarian church in Dallas,
3) students at a technical school in Dallas,
4) member of the Air National Guard, and
5) members of the John Birch Society.
The results compared the mean scores of each group on each concept with nineteen adjective sets. Three additional groups were isolated by selecting subjects who rated themselves as either “very liberal”, “very conservative”, or “middle-of- the- road” on a self -rating scale. The focus is on the use of the semantic differential technique in testing.
Results: The scores revealed a distinct separation between the groups. The “very conservative” and the John Birch Society strongly rejected the slogan, “Make love, not war” and the peace symbol; but they strongly affirmed the slogan “America, love it or leave it”, and the American flag. The “very liberal”, the Lee Park group, and the Unitarians reacted in an opposite pattern except for their reactions to the American flag, which was neither affirmed or rejected. There was a shift toward “emotional” on the “emotional-rational” adjective set on the part of all groups in relation to the concept.
Conclusion: It may be concluded that
1) the perceived meaning of symbols and slogans was accurately
recorded by the semantic differential technique,
2) that meaning is influenced by group affiliation, and
3) that meaning tends to be “emotional” rather than “rational”. The study concludes that symbols and slogans are highly persuasive techniques which are based at least in part on emotional stimulation.
When logical interaction is needed, symbols and slogans should be avoided. When emotional motivation is needed, symbols and slogans may provide an effective means of persuasion.