A brief except from this PsyWar.org article demonstrates the term’s history. Credit goes to SGM Herbert A. Friedman (Ret.).
The attempt to win the hearts and minds of friends and enemies was first called “Propaganda” (from the Catholic Church – Congregatio de propaganda fide), and later changed to “psychological warfare” (PSYWAR) about 1920.
The term was changed to “psychological operations” (PSYOP) about 1945, although it did not gain popularity until about 1960 when it became clear that many of the influence operations like asking the people to support a new national government took place during peacetime.
The Army then experimented with the term “information operations” (IO) about 2003 which started to blur the lines between PSYOP, military deception, operational security, electronic warfare and computer networks operations.
In 2010, the military decided on the term “military information support operations” (MISO). <MISO now replaces PSYOPS. MISO is part of the larger umbrella of Information Operations>
It is important to remember that no matter what we call the art of influencing the enemy, the methods used and the personnel involved really do not change.
A recent PSYOP example from the same article appears below. It comes from the “Psychological Operations” paragraph from United States Army War College research paper: “Information Operations” by Peter L. Burnett Jr.
During the initial attack against Afghanistan, the Afghan people’s views of America were negative primarily due to a lack of knowledge the people possessed regarding the attack. The Taliban government and the leadership of al-Qaida tried to convince the people of Afghanistan that America was attacking the religious faith of the Afghan nation. The Taliban government and the al-Qaida network’s goal was to gain support of the Afghan population, the political will of the people, and to promote hatred toward any American effort in Afghanistan.
Using PSYOP as a tool, America was able to reach the people through leaflets, food, broadcast coordination, use of coalition forces, and good deeds to prove America was not attacking their religious faith, but was attacking terrorist activities. The PSYOP efforts cast a brighter light regarding America’s efforts in Afghanistan regardless of America’s efforts or explanation. No country wants to be attacked, but the PSYOP efforts have paid off and proven to be an effective measure in America’s efforts against terrorism.