PS 474, Political Psychology, Study Questions for the Midterm Exam

Dr. Peffley, Spring, 2010 (revised Feb. 25th)


Ground Rules:  The exam is worth 35% of your final grade and will consist of about 30 multiple choice questions and 1 to 4 short essay questions. The review questions below are designed to focus your preparation on theories and concepts from which the exam questions will be selected and formulated. There are a lot of questions, but they are fairly specific and they are far fewer than the usual infinite number of potential questions you’d be facing if there wasn’t a study guide!  If you are prepared to answer these questions, you should do well on the exam. During the exam, you may not rely on notes. Bring both a #2 pencil for the multiple choice questions and a ball-point pen and a blue book for the essay questions. Better essays will be organized and efficiently written.

     The exam will cover class discussions and the readings in topics I-IV on the revised syllabus.


1.     What are a few of the objections to studying political psychology and how should we respond to them?

2.     In response to the question of why there are so many different theories in psychology, Gordon Allport replied, “No single sovereign theory will do.” What did he mean by this statement and what does it imply about the theories we study in Political Psychology?

3.     Compare the strengths and weaknesses of two of the following methods for studying political psychology: survey research, experiments, and depth interviews, focusing on their internal and external validity.

4.     What are some of the general questions we should ask about a survey when evaluating its findings?

5.     Based on our class discussion, Which method is more appropriate for evaluating the following question and why: Do attack (negative) ads discourage turnout?

6.     Discuss the role of Standardization (i.e., control in manipulating variables) and random assignment in establishing the internal validity of experiments.

7.     Based on your reading of McDermott’s article, describe each of the following potential problems with experiments and how to minimize their effects: Expectancy effects, Experimenter bias, and Demand characteristics.

8.     Psychologists often rely on undergraduates in Psychology courses as participants in experiments. Discuss some of the potential problems associated with this practice, according to Sears, citing examples of when it might be relevant, and discuss a few reasons why this problem might be overstated. 

9.     Why is Anthony Downs’ treatment of individuals’ decision on whether to vote or abstain in an election sometimes called the “paradox that ate rational choice theory”?  What is Downs’ theory and how accurate are its predictions?

10.  Evaluate Anthony Downs’ theory of how people vote in elections. What are the goals/means of candidates and of voters? What are the predictions of the model? How accurate are the predictions and what is the value of the theory?

11.  Describe the major problems associated with the Classic Economic Rational Choice Approach to decision-making, according to Richard Lau, and how does behavioral decision theory overcome those problems?

12.  What is “correct voting,” according to Lau and Redlawsk, how do they study it, and what do they find with respect to the degree of correct voting across different types of decision making models and individual characteristics, such as age? 

13.  Compare the strengths and weaknesses of rational choice and heuristic choice models of decision making, as discussed in class.

14.  What are the major symptoms of groupthink (define), according to Irving Janis, and in what are some of the major ways the occupation of Iraq (2003-2007) either conforms to or departs from Janis’ theory?

15.  What are 3-4 ways to prevent groupthink, according to Janis?

16.  On balance, based on our class discussion, how would you evaluate Janis’ theory of groupthink in terms of its limitations and the degree to which experimental studies in psychology either support the theory or not?

17.  Evaluate some of the major reasons why political scientists been so slow to latch onto the advances in biology and social sciences.  

18.  How Alford, Hibbing and Funk (AHF) study the degree to which heredity versus the environment explains individual variation in some political and social attitudes, and what are some of the major findings of their research.

19.  What are some of the major shortcomings of twin studies and how are more recent studies attempting to overcome those limitations?

20.  What are some of the major political implications of the research by AHF discussed by the authors?

21.  What are some of the major findings of Oxley, Hibbing et al on the physiological reactions to perceived threat by liberals and conservatives, how do they explain their findings and what are some of the implications of their research? 

22.  What is Carl Hovland’s approach to attitude change and what are some of its shortcomings?

23.  What is the cognitive response approach to attitude change and what are some of its shortcomings?

24.  In terms of the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) of attitude change, describe the different routes to persuasion, the factors that affect which route is used, and what the implications of the theory are for political persuasion.

25.  When does the source have greater or lesser influence on persuasion. Use political examples.

26.  What is self-justification and why is it more powerful and dangerous than lying? Use examples.

27.  What is motivated reasoning, how does it influence belief updating, who is more susceptible to it and when? How does the Gaines et al study of partisan persuasion and resistance during the Iraq War provide a useful illustration of motivated reasoning?


Questions & Concepts from Age of Propaganda (skip chs. 12-16, 22, 26-27, 29-32, 34-35, 39-40)


1.     What is propaganda, how should it be distinguished from education, and what questions can be used to distinguish propaganda from fair and deliberative persuasion?

2.     Why mindless propaganda?

3.     What is the essential modern dilemma?

4.     In their chapter on Mysterious Influence, what are the myths that the authors dispel?

5.     What is cognitive dissonance and what is the rationalization trap, as applied to World War II?

6.     What are the four stratagems of influence and how does Rush Limbaugh use them?  

7.     How are labels and words used by politicians to pre-persuade. Give three examples.

8.     Why are the pictures in our heads painted by the mass media so influential? Give 2-3 examples.

9.     How do analogies and metaphors persuade? Use examples.  

10.  How can questions influence pre-persuasion? Cite examples.

11.  How do “factoids” influence pre-persuasion? Use examples.

12.  When do we use persuasion heuristics, when are they unreliable and how can we reduce our reliance on them? (Ch 17)

13.  Explain why vivid appeals are either effective or not, using political examples from the book. (Ch 19)

14.  Under what conditions are repetitive ads likely to be more or less effective? Use examples.

15.  When and why is distraction an effective propaganda tool? Use examples.

16.  Explain Protagoras’ ideal, using political examples.

17.  When and why are fear appeals an effective propaganda tool? Use examples.

18.  When and why is the granfalloon technique an effective propaganda tool? Use examples.

19.  How do escalating commitments work and how do they influence political decision making, according to the authors? Use examples.

20.  What do the authors tell us about the effectiveness of information campaigns?

21.  How can you (or someone else) become a cult leader? Use examples.

22.  What propaganda techniques did Nazi propaganda rely on, according to the authors? Use examples.

23.  Explain forewarning and inoculation techniques, using examples.