Propaganda Game

This game, whose full title is THE PROPAGANDA GAME, was developed by Robert W. Allen and Lorne Greene and is based on the book Thinking Straighter by George Henry Moulds (Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 1966). The 1970 edition of the instruction book that accompanies the game was written by Allen, then director of the an academic game project at Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, and Greene, then starring as Ben Cartwright in the long-running TV series Bonanza. It was published by Autotelic Instructional Materials Publishers of New Haven. According to the instruction book, which was first published in 1966, the game was developed by Allen and Greene in Burbank, California, where Allen “was responsible for the experimental mathematics and logic programs in the Burbank United School District” (p. 68). Bob Allen had earlier worked with his brother, Layman E. Allen, on the games WFF ‘N PROOF and EQUATIONS (see MA*335302 and MA*335304).
In My Father’s Voice: The Biography of Lorne Greene (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2004), Linda Greene Bennett wrote that, as reported by Bob Allen, her father said that “we can develop a game where every time someone looked at the newspaper or listened to a broadcast…they could listen to it with more intelligence.” Bob Allen then “developed a game based on a college course he had once taken about linguistic fallacies” (p. 162). The first version of the game was completed in May 1965 and, therefore, preceded QUERIES ‘N THEORIES, the game developed by Layman Allen and others that introduced the basic ideas of linguistics (see MA*335309).
The red plastic game box contains the instruction book, four small tokens, twenty orange example cards, twenty white example cards, and four technique cards, each of which has a “prediction dial” with openings that can display a number 0 through 10. In addition, there is a chart naming levels of clear thinking. The negative range, -5 to -1, represents the “ding-a-ling section,” 0 represents “What the Number Implies,” and 14 through 20 represent various levels of thinkers ranging from a “February 29th Thinker,” through an “Occasional Thinker,” and ending as a “CLEAR THINKER!”.There is also a sheet on which Lorne Greene is pictured and is quoted as declaring
In a democratic society such as ours, it is the role of every citizen to make decisions after evaluating many ideas. It is especially important then that a citizen be able to analyze and distinguish between the emotional aura surrounding the idea and the actual content of the idea. It is to this goal of clear thinking that THE PROPAGANDA GAME addresses itself.
The instruction book defines and gives examples of fifty-five propaganda techniques. A chapter called “Explanation of Techniques” consists of sections devoted to six categories of propaganda technique: self-deception, language, irrelevance, exploitation, form, and maneuver. Within each category of technique there are at least eight different techniques listed. For example, among the ten techniques of exploitation are appeals to pity, flattery, ridicule, prestige, and prejudice. Each of the example cards contains one example for each of the six categories of propaganda technique. Various games are described, all of which are based on players determining which propaganda techniques they think are being used for examples appearing on the example cards. The instruction book has a chapter called “Suggested Answers” that includes explanations of the authors’ choices of the technique used in each of the 240 examples on the cards.
The simplest version of The Propaganda Games is The Solitaire Game in which a player chooses one of the sets of twenty cards and one of the six categories of techniques. The player is read the example on each card for that category and is asked to predict which technique is used in each example. The player wins if the predictions made agree with that of the authors for at least eighteen of the twenty examples.
Over the years the name and location of the distributor of The Propaganda Game changed, although the phrase “Games For Thinkers” has been associated with it from the start. Price lists in the WFF ‘N PROOF Newsletters (part of the documentation in accession 317891) indicate that at first the version was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF in New Haven, Connecticut, and sold for $5.50. In 1970 the price was raised to $6.50 and in 1971 the game was distributed by WFF ‘N PROOF through Maple Packers in Turtle Creek, Pennsylvania. A firm called Learning Games Associates of Ann Arbor later took over distribution and donated this example to the Smithsonian in 1975. The Accelerated Learning Foundation of Fairfield, Iowa, then became the distributor.
Games For Thinkers Website.
Currently not on view
Object Name
date made
ca 1970
Allen, Robert W.
Greene, Lorne
Learning Games Associates
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 2.5 cm x 15.25 cm x 12.5 cm; 31/32 in x 6 in x 4 29/32 in
place made
United States: Michigan, Ann Arbor
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Science & Mathematics
Mathematical Recreations
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Mathematical Recreations
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Learning Games Associates
Additional Media

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