The Psychology of Politics

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
25 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

Politics is about people. Everything – angry tweeting, constitutional design, environmental lobbying, states going to war – boils down to the opinions, decisions and behaviour of individuals, and understanding those is the territory of psychology.

Political psychology is a growing and thriving subfield, to which this module provides a wide-ranging introduction. We will apply both the theories and methods of psychology to the behaviour of a range of political actors – voters, leaders, protestors, even terrorists.

This is a practical as well as a theoretical module, with heavy emphasis on how we learn about the psychology of politics and a second assignment in which students both assess an existing piece of political psychology research and come up with an alternative design of their own.

Module aims

The aims of this module are to give students:

1. A grounding in the core concepts in social, cognitive and personality psychology
2. Understanding of the drivers of and biases in human reasoning that shape political thinking
3. Understanding of how that political thinking interacts with and is shaped by political institutions
4. Accessible examples of empirical research that they can evaluate in terms of validity and usefulness
5. A feasible Capstone project option via the research design assignment
6. Greater empathy with ‘the other side’ in political terms, via an understanding of the psychology underlying ideological differences, polarisation and skewed perceptions
7. Recognition that, like much of political science, the psychology of politics has been researched and understood in a weird context, and that this inevitably shapes what the module is and does

Module learning outcomes

1. Applicable knowledge of the core concepts in social, cognitive and personality psychology
2. Ability to grasp the contribution of key readings in the field
3. Recognition that our conclusions about the psychology of politics depend heavily on both definition and measurement of key concepts
4. Experience of research design in practice via the second assignment

Module information

Week 2: Politics and the brain
Week 3: Personality and values
Week 4: Authority and conformity
Week 5: Emotions
Week 6: Group identity
Week 7: Polarisation
Week 8: Post-truth? Fake news and conspiracies
Week 9: Leaders and decisions
Week 10: Conflict and peace
Week 11: Mental health and politics

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered with a weekly two-hour interactive seminar. Each session will consist of a blend of lecturing, Q&A, group and whole-class discussion – the precise blend to depend in part on student numbers. There will be two Required Readings each week: one an academic article or chapter, another a topical piece – a blog post, newspaper article, Twitter thread, or some such – that illustrates the issues raised and provides a basis for class discussion. There will be longer lists of Useful Reading, helpful for detailed preparation and especially essay writing.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Essay    40% 
Coursework   Experimental Design    60% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Diane Bolet, email: diane.bolet@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Diane Bolet
Please contact govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Katharine Dommett
The University of Sheffield
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
Of 585 hours, 20 (3.4%) hours available to students:
565 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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