Manipulators - manipulative techniques in media

Type of tool: 
120+ min
Topics addressed: 

The main aim of the activity is to increase critical thinking of young people and to help them to recognize manipulative techniques often used in media.


The main aim of the activity is to increase critical thinking of young people and help them to recognize manipulative techniques often used in media.


Workshop, learning by doing, work in groups

Step by step process: 

PHASE ONE - Introduction of activity

1. Introduce that the topic of the session will be about manipulative and persuasive techniques. If necessary, clarify the terms. Ask participants which techniques they know, and give some examples.
2. Divide participants into small groups (5-6 participants per group). All the groups have the same task, to create a TV advertisement or a political campaign promoting a person, idea or product using as many manipulative techniques as possible. Everything is allowed, participants can use everything they know from TV. They can take it seriously but also with humor. The important is to convince other groups.
3. For making the video participants can use mobile phones and in order to avoid editing, we advise participants to make one-shot movie. The advertisement can also be short, encourage them to combine different techniques which they know from TV advertisements.
3i. If the group is less experienced or there is not enough time, it’s possible to make a theatrical performance instead of doing a real video.
4. Each group has 45 minutes to make videos.

PHASE TWO - Presentation of videos
Before videos are shown, introduce shortly to participants the most usual persuasive and manipulative techniques (max 15-20). During the presentation give concrete examples of use of techniques (from publicity, politic campaigns) and encourage participants to tell their examples.
Participants will present their TV spots.
Every video is followed by a small discussion facilitated by trainer/facilitator.
- Which techniques did you recognize?
- Did you recognize other techniques we didn’t mention?

PHASE THREE - Debriefing
Have you seen these techniques being used in media? In which media products? Do you think that these techniques have influence over audience? Do they have influence over you? Do you know other techniques which haven’t been mentioned? How can we protect ourselves from these techniques?

PHASE FOUR - Closing
The session is closed with a presentation of very frequent manipulative techniques which were not used in the videos made by participants. Participants are asked to give some concrete examples after have seen them. Discussion is supported by example of videos and pictures from famous movies, advertisement, etc which have been selected earlier from the web by the trainer.

Materials and resources: 

-video camera or mobile phone with video camera, paper, pencils, pens, colours, PC and a video projector - selection of 15-20 printed techniques, shortly described (links on list of techniques are at the end of activity)
USB data-cable to pass video from mobile phone to PC.


According to our experience this tool helps young people to recognize manipulative techniques which are currently present on social media but also in TV and advertisement. Connecting these techniques with reality such as: real TV spots, articles and advertisement which surrounds us every day, it helps to create a "click" on their mind which afterwards allow participants to recognize manipulation in every day life.


The advantage of this activity is that is very flexible. Is easy to adapt it to different target groups and it doesn't require particular technical equipment. Topic is very attractive for young people and usually encourage wide discussion. At the same time, this activity allows young people to increase their skills in video making and presentation skills. It's often among participants that is their first time in front of a camera (in this case mobile phone camera).
Activity requires a good preparation of trainer/facilitator and therefore we reccomend to deepen knowledge about manipulative and persuasive techniques.
The disadvantage of this activity is that video-making is time consuming and for many participants time-management is difficult to manage. Therefore is important to remind them to keep checking the time given.

Notes for further use: 

This activity can have many variations. If there is quite a long time, it is possible to divide the activity in two parts: during the first part (one day) ask participants to create an advertisement using persuasive techniques. During the second part (other day) create political/ideological speech or campaign using manipulative techniques. In this way participants can go deeper in the topic. You can invite participants to make advertisement and political campaign about not-serious topics: for example advertisement for the best toilet paper or political campaign that all pens have to be blue.
The number of persuasive and manipulative techniques is really high and therefore it is important to select the ones which are the most important for the aim of your activity, or which are more actual.

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