(The science of packaging a message and getting it to travel and stick to the mind is now called viral marketing and branding. The template for the processes involved are in the way rumors work and they were much studied during WWII.
The text I've edited below describes how a rumor or story inevitably simplifies down to catchy keywords and other ideal traits of a story that stick in our minds best.
This is just what you want to use if you are a military-intelligence psychological operations expert creating either propaganda or counterpropaganda, the professional and even dishonest sellers in the "marketplace of ideas."
Re: Counterpropaganda using Inoculation Theory and Interference Theory
These idealized traits of rumor are precisely the things to know if suppressed information is to be dismembered and the main narrative components grafted into a benign decoy narrative that sticks in the mind better than the suppressed information, a process recognized since 1961 as "inoculation theory."
"Interference theory" describes how it is possible to make it harder to associate two related stimuli, to "connect the dots," using perfectly contradicting language in just the right ways.
The idea is that the mind can be induced to resist information the same way the body can be inoculated against disease, by using just enough of the disease to activate defenses.
In memory, this means using fiction to pre-bias the brain into thinking it already knows the story of a real scandal but with the heroes and villains reversed or atleast pleasant associations instead of disturbing ones.
Example: The 1968 assassination of Senator Robert Kennedy by his bodyguard in a kitchen at the same time a hypnoprogrammed patsy was firing blanks to be framed up and jailed... is complicated.
*But Disney's (CIA for kidz!) movie called 'Ratatouille' about a rat in a kitchen secretly guiding the hands of a human cook is simpler, cute, and gets to kid's minds first to pre-bias them to the friendly fictional counterpropaganda.
Notice the value of what propaganda science calls "primacy," getting to the mind first to embed the preferred cover-up story. Lots of CIA covert socializing propaganda for children is done just this way, with cute stories. And parents have no idea this is going on.
'Public Opinion and Propaganda: A Book of Readings, Edited for the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues,' 1954
Chapter - The Basic Psychology of Rumor, pages 398- 402
What happens in real life and laboratory rumors is a complex course of distortion in which three interrelated tendencies are clearly distinguishable.
As rumor travels, it tends to grow shorter, more concise, more easily grasped and told. In successive versions, fewer words are used and fewer details are mentioned.
We may define sharpening as the selective perception, retention, and reporting of a limited number of details from a larger context. Sharpening is inevitably the reciprocal of leveling. The one cannot exist without the other, for what little remains to a rumor after leveling has taken place is by contrast unavoidably featured.
One way in which the sharpening seems to be determined is through the retention of odd, or attention-getting words which, having appeared early in the series, catch the attention of each successive listener and are often passed on in preference to other details intrinsically more important to the story.
There is also a temporal sharpening manifested in the tendency to describe events as occurring in the immediate present. What happens in the here and now is of greatest interest and importance to the perceiver.
Sharpening often takes place where there is a clear implication of movement.
Relative size is also a primary determinant of attention. Objects that are prominent because of their size tend to be retained and sharpened.
There are verbal as well as physical determinants of attention. Thus, there is a pronounced tendency for labels to persist, especially if they serve to set the stage for the story. .....To explain this type of sharpening, we may invoke the desire of the subject to achieve some spatial and temporal schema for the story to come. Such orientation is essential in ordinary life and appears to constitute a strong need even when imaginal material is dealt with.
An additional factor making for preferential retention of spatial and temporal labels is the primacy effect. An item that comes first in a series is likely to be better remembered than subsequent items. Usually, the label indicating place and time comes at the beginning of a report and thus benefits by the primacy effect.
Sharpening also occurs in relation to familiar symbols.
Explanations added by the reporter to the description transmitted to him comprise the final form of sharpening. They represent a tendency to put 'closure' upon a story which is otherwise felt to be incomplete. They illustrate the effort after 'meaning' which customarily haunts the subject who finds himself in an unstructured situtation.
Such need for sharpening by explanation becomes especially strong when the story has been badly distorted and the report contains implausible and incompatible items.
Here, perhaps, is the place to take issue with the popular notion that rumors tend to expand like snowballs, become elaborate and verbose. Actually, the course of a rumor is toward brevity...Such exaggeration as exists is nearly always a sharpening of some feature resident in the original stimulus-situation. The distortion caused by sharpening is, of course, enormous in extent; but we do not find that we need the category of "elaboration" to account for the changes we observe.
It is apparent that both leveling and sharpening are selective processes. But what is it that leads to the obliteration of some details and the pointing-up of others; and what accounts for all transpositions, importations, and other falsifications that mark the course of rumor? The answer is to be found in the process of assimilation, which has to do with the powerful attractive force exerted upon rumor by habits, interests, and sentiments existing in the listener's mind.
Assimilation to Principal Theme
It generally happens that items become sharpened or leveled to fit the leading motif of the story, and they become consistent with this motif in such a way as to make the resulting story more coherent, plausible, and well-rounded.
Falsifications of perception and memory...occur in the interests of bringing about a more coherent, consistent mental configuration. Every detail is assimilated to the principal theme, and "good continuation" is sought, in order to round out meaning where it is lacking or incomplete.
Assimilation by Condensation
It sometimes seems as though memory tries to burden itself as little as possible. For instance, instead of remembering two items, it is more economical to fuse them into one.
Assimilation to Expectation
Just as details are changed or imported to bear out the simplified theme that the listener has in mind, so also many items take a form that supports the agent's habits of thought.
Things that are perceived are remembered the way they usually are.
The most spectacular of all our assimilation distortions is the finding that, in more than half of our experiments, a razor moves (in the telling) from a white man's hand to a Negro's hand (Fig. 1). This result is a clear instance of assimilation to stereotyped expectancy. Black men are "supposed" to carry razors, white men not.
Assimilation to Linguistic Habits
Expectency is often merely a matter of fitting perceived and remembered material to preexisting cliches, which exert a powerful influence in the conventionalization of rumors.
Words often arouse compelling familiar images in the listener's mind and fix for him the categories in which he must think of the event and the value that he must attach to it.
Assimilation to Prejudice
...the rumor, though mischievous, may reflect chiefly an assimilation of the story to verbal-cliches and conventional expectation. Distortion in this case may not mean assimilation to hostility. Much so-called prejudice is, of course, a mere matter of conforming to current folkways by accepting prevalent beliefs about an out-group.
.....even under laboratory conditions, we find assimilation in terms of deep-lying emotional predispositions. Our rumors, like those of everyday life, tend to fit into, and support, the occupational interests, class or racial memberships, or personal prejudices of the reporter.
Conclusion, the Embedding Process
Leveling, sharpening, and assimilation are not independent mechanisms. They function simultaneously, and reflect a singular subjectifying process that results in the autism and falsification which are so characteristic of rumor. If we were to attempt to summarize what happens in a few words we might say:
[ Whenever a stimulus field is of potential importance to an individual, but at the same time unclear, or susceptible of divergent interpretations, a subjective structuring process is started. Although the process is complex (involving, as it does, leveling, sharpening, and assimilation), its essential nature can be characterized as an effort to reduce the stimulus to a simple and meaningful structure that has adaptive significance for the individual in terms of his own interests and experience. The process begins at the moment the ambiguous situation is perceived, but the effects are greatest if memory intervenes. The longer the time that elapses after the stimulus is perceived the greater the threefold change is likely to be, until the rumor has reached an aphoristic brevity, and is repeated rote. ]
Now, this three-pronged process turns out to be characteristic not only of rumor but of the individual memory function as well. It has been uncovered and described in the experiments of Wulf, Gibson, Allport, and, in Barlett's memory experiments carried out both on individuals and on groups.
For the lack of a better designation, we speak of the three-fold change as the embedding process. What seems to occur in all our experiments and in all related studies is that each subject find the outer stimulus-world far too hard to grasp and retain in its objective character. For his own personal uses, it must be recast to fit not only his own span of retention, but, likewise, his own personal needs and interests. What was outer becomes inner; what was objective becomes subjective. In telling a rumor, the kernal of objective information that he received has become so embedded into his own dynamic mental life that the product is chiefly one of projection.
CIA runs mainstream media since WWII:
news rooms, movies/TV, publishing
Disney is CIA for kidz!