Political Psychology

The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
23 April 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

MA L20812 Political Psychology,
MA L20824 Political Psychology,
MSC L20812 Political Psychology,
MSC L20824 Political Psychology

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 political psychology and with every student designing – and perhaps in their dissertation executing – a research project in the field.

Module aims

The aims of this module are to give students:
1. An understanding of the psychological underpinnings of the political phenomena studied in other PGT modules
2. A grounding in the core concepts in social, cognitive and personality psychology
3. Understanding of the drivers of and biases in human reasoning that shape political thinking
4. Understanding of how that political thinking interacts with and is shaped by political institutions
5. Accessible examples of empirical research that they can evaluate in terms of validity and usefulness
6. A feasible dissertation project option via the experimental design assignment
7. Greater empathy with ‘the other side’ in political terms, via an understanding of the psychology underlying ideological differences, polarisation and skewed perceptions.

Module learning outcomes

1. A firm grasp of where political psychology sits with respect to the broader disciplines of political science and psychology
2. Applicable knowledge of the core concepts in social, cognitive and personality psychology
3. Ability to assess the contribution and to assess the weaknesses of key readings in the field
4. Recognition that our conclusions about political psychology depend heavily on both definition and measurement
5. Experience of research design in practice via the experimental design 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: Prejudice and polarisation
Week 8: Facts, 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 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 govpgquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Kyriaki Nanou
Durham University
Associate Professor in European politics
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

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

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.