Home Institution

University of Michigan

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Switzerland: International Studies and Multilateral Diplomacy


Cognitive Warfare is the interdisciplinary use of technology and an understanding of the brain’s natural processes to influence opinion and behavior. Also known as sharp power, these methods are more technical and accurate than Cold War-age propaganda, and more personal than typical information warfare. With tools like disinformation and big data, outsiders have the ability to exploit vulnerabilities, manipulate belief formation and disseminate a chosen narrative on the grand scale. Examples of events that utilized cognitive warfare to influence sentiment include the 2016 U.S. Presidential election, Russian annexation of Crimea, and the UK’s vote to withdraw from the European Union – the chosen case study for this paper. This paper will form a comprehensive analysis of the psychological factors at play and the components unique to the current Information Era to describe what make cognitive warfare so effective. The morality of sharp power is a big question but one that will not slow the world’s ambition for technological innovation and neuropsychological discovery.


Business Analytics | Business Law, Public Responsibility, and Ethics | Communications Law | Communication Technology and New Media | Comparative Politics | Digital Communications and Networking | European Languages and Societies | Information Security | International and Intercultural Communication | Politics and Social Change | Social Media



Article Location