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Political Psychology

Module Code: PO4770

Module Name: Political Psychology 2017–18

  • ECTS Weighting: 15
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Prequisites: The module is not open to visiting students
  • Contact Hours: Two one-hour seminars per week
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr Gizem Arikan
  • Office Hours: Thursday, 10:00-12:00
  • Module Syllabus

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Describe the historical development of the field of political psychology.
  • Compare and criticise the major approaches in the study of attitude formation and organization.
  • Explain and interpret the major information processing models.
  • Explain the psychological correlates of group dynamics including obedience, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, and prejudice.
  • Construct arguments concerning current political debates about citizen preferences in modern democracies.

Module Learning Aims

The module aims to introduce students to the fundamental concepts and prominent approaches in political psychology. Students will gain a thorough understanding of the major theoretical and empirical debates in the discipline, and be able to discuss and evaluate the role of psychological factors that underlie political attitudes and behaviour.


Module Content

The module explores the psychological processes underlying citizen preferences in modern political systems by examining some of the fundamental debates and theoretical approaches in political psychology. After a brief survey of the history, major themes, and methods of the discipline, we will move on to discuss how citizens form and organize their attitudes. Topics covered will include elite-based vs bottom-up approaches to ideology, personality and values, cognitive and symbolic approaches, genetic and biological perspectives. We will then discuss information processing and focus on the role of affect and emotions in decision-making, motivated reasoning, media effects, and political networks. 

The last part of the module examines group-based approaches to cooperation and conflict in societies. Conformity, obedience, authoritarianism, realistic conflict and social identity theories, social dominance orientation, system justification theory, ethnocentrism and nationalism, prejudice, immigration and multiculturalism will be among the topics that we will study.

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Recommended reading list

Indicative bibliography:
Houghton, David Patrick. 2009. Political Psychology: Situations, Individuals, and Cases. New York: Routledge.
Huddy, Leonie, David O. Sears, and Jack S. Levy. 2013. The Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. 2d ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jost, John T. and Jim Sidanius. 2004. Political Psychology: Key Readings. New York and Hove: Psychology Press.

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Assessment Details

Two essays (20% each)
One three-hour examination (60%)

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Last updated 21 September 2017 polsci@tcd.ie.