Political Science 474G, Political Psychology, CB 214

Spring, 2010, TR 12:30 - 1:45

Professor Mark Peffley, 1653 Patterson, 257-7033 (use email!)

Office Hours: TR 2:00-3:00, mark.peffley@uky.edu



The syllabus is posted at my web-site (http://www.uky.edu/AS/PoliSci/Peffley/), where new material (e.g., lecture outlines, exam review questions, written assignments) is posted and updated throughout the semester.  Please bookmark the syllabus and check it regularly.



The subject matter of this course is the intersection of two disciplines: psychology and political science. We draw from theories and research in human psychology—such as personality, biology, cognitive psychology and intergroup relations, to explain a wide range of political behavior—such as decision-making, mass political behavior, mass communication effects, attitude change, and intergroup conflicts involving race, gender and nationality. In this course, we will adopt a fairly broad definition of "political behavior," one that includes political attitudes, beliefs, and opinions as well as actual behavior.  This broad focus allows us to explore a variety of different types of behavior and a variety of psychological concepts to explain that behavior.  For example, not only do we focus on conventional and positive forms of political activity, such as voting behavior, but we also spend some time trying to explain political intolerance, prejudice, violence and aggression.


One goal of this course is to understand and explain political behavior—to be able to answer the basic question, Why do people exhibit different political behavior?  Why isn't everyone the same?  Why are some people political "junkies" and others political "couch potatoes?"  Why do some people chafe and rebel, while others practically begin goose-stepping at the slightest hint of political authority?  We will explore a variety of concepts and theories in psychology in an attempt to explain why people are different politically. Thus, one reason some people are more aggressive, obedient and politically intolerant than others is that they have different personalities.  Other explanations are that they have different ideologies, stereotypes  and prejudices; or that they are “good” people who are pressured by their environment to do “evil” things.



Three texts and many articles and book chapters are required reading for the course. The texts are available at the university bookstores.


In addition, a number of articles and book chapters are required reading, and can be downloaded from the syllabus site.


Student Responsibilities

1.     Graduate students should see me about additional readings and a research paper requirement.


2.     Participation

                Students are expected to have read and considered the course readings in preparation for each class. Students are also expected to participate in class discussions and to be ready to do so on the subject of the day. Class participation is 10% of the grade and will definitely influence borderline grades.

                 Our class time will not be spent simply "going over" the assigned readings. Rather, the readings will serve as a foundation and point of departure for lectures and discussions. It is, therefore, imperative that students complete the assigned readings before a particular topic is taken up in class. Also, the assigned readings should not be viewed as absolute truth. Read the material thoughtfully, challenge the conclusions of the authors, and voice your criticisms in class.

                Students should feel free to raise questions concerning the readings, the lectures, and the comments of other students. In other words, meaningful participation is strongly encouraged and will, no doubt, enhance the quality of our class sessions.


3.     Examinations and Grades

Grades will be based on the following criteria:

Midterm                              35% of Grade

Final Exam                          40% of Grade

Written Assignments        15% of Grade

Class Participation            10% of Grade

While class attendance is not mandatory, exams will be based on both readings and class discussions. Also, attendance and participation will definitely influence borderline grades.

If a student has a university-excused absence, arrangements for a make-up exam may be made. (See Section, Part II of the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook for a definition of university-excused absences.) Note, however, that the format of a make-up will not be the same as the regular exam.


Tentative Reading List (Changes will be made!)


        I.   Introduction:  What is the Field of Political Psychology? Perspectives, Methods. (3 classes)


¨  David O. Sears, Leonie Huddy and Robert Jervis, "The Psychologies Underlying Political Psychology," Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, pp. 3-16.

¨   Rose McDermott. 2002. “EXPERIMENTAL METHODS IN POLITICAL SCIENCE.” Annual Review of Political Science.

¨   David O. Sears. 1986. “College sophomores in the laboratory: Influences of a narrow data base on psychologists' views of human nature.”

¨       Lecture Outline: Perspectives & Methods


      II.   Rational Choice & Psychological Models of Decision-Making:  Empirical vs. Normative Models (1 week) Jan. 26


¨     Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy, ch. 1, ch. 2, & ch. 3.

¨     Richard Lau, “Models of Decision-Making,” Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology, pp 19-59.

¨       Janis:  Groupthink, Ch. 1 , ch 2, ch 6  & ch 8. pp. 2-47, 132-158, 174-197. (100 pp.) (Ch. 2 analyzes the Bay of Pigs fiasco under Kennedy; Ch. 8 is the summary chapter of the book; read these more carefully)

¨       Film: “No End In Sight”

Lecture Outline: Decision-Making

    III.   Biology & Politics (3 classes) Feb. 4


¨       John R. Alford, Carolyn L. Funk, and John R. Hibbing. 2005. Are political orientations genetically transmitted?  American Political Science Review 99: 153-68. (read)

¨       Oxley, Hibbing, et al. 2008. Science 321, 1667. “Political attitudes vary with physiological traits.” Also, watch brief NSF video, here, as well as “Daily Show” segment here.

¨     John Alford and John Hibbing. 2004. “The Origin of Politics:  An Evolutionary Theory of Political Behavior.” Perspectives on Politics, 2: 707-723. (skim)

¨    Steven Pinker. 2008. “The Moral Instinct.” New York Times. (Fascinating example of evolutionary psychology).  See his appearance on “The Colbert Report,” here. (skim)

Lecture Outline: Biology and Politics

 IV.   Persuasion and Attitude Change: Theory and Applications (3 classes) April 6


¨    Anthony1 R. Pratkanis & Elliot Aronson.  Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion,
(skip chs. 12-16, 22, 26-27, 29-32, 34-35, 39-40).

Lecture Outline: Persuasion & propaganda

 Review Questions for Midterm Exam (posted 1 week before exam)


Midterm Exam: March 2nd 


March 4th: Class: Video “Sex and Violence”


March 4th: Speaker Keith Payne: 3:30 p.m., Kastle 213:  "Implicit Attitudes in Social & Political Behavior"


  V.   The Political Psychology of Prejudice (3 classes) March 9


¨     Keith Payne, et al. 2010. "Implicit and explicit prejudice in the 2008 American presidential election," Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. (skim; I'll cover this in class)

¨    Spencer Piston, "How Explicit Racial Prejudice Hurt Obama in the 2008 Election," Political Behavior, 2010. (read)

¨     Jennifer Eberhardt- Policing Racial Bias- Part 1, Jennifer Eberhardt- Policing Racial Bias- Part 2, Jennifer Eberhardt- Policing Racial Bias- Part 3, Jennifer Eberhardt- Policing Racial Bias- Part 4

¨     IAT: "The Problem is Really in the Environment"

¨     Jim Kuklinski and Michael Cobb. “When White Southerners Converse About Race” (in Hurwitz & Peffley, eds. Perception & Prejudice, 1998).

*Review Questions for Political Psychology of Prejudice

**Lecture Outline: Political Psychology of Prejudice


March 15 - 20 –Spring Vacation!


Written Assignment: Due April 6: Exposing Political Propaganda


VI.     Social Identity, National Identity and Political Behavior (2-3 classes) March 25


¨    Elizabeth Theiss-Morse. 2009. Who Counts as American? The Boundaries of National Identity, entire.

*Review Questions for Who Counts as An American?


   VIII.   Group Influences & Aggression (1 week): April 20th


¨   Stanley Milgram, Obedience to Authority, chs 1-10, 13 only.

* Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment (webpage)

*Conformity Study Questions 

*Genocide & Mass Killings  (lecture outline)


*Final Exam Study Guide (posted 1 week before exam)

 May 4: Final Examination, Tuesday, 1:00 to 3:00 in CB 214


  IV.   Personality: Traits, Psychobiography and the Authoritarianism (3 classes) Feb 15


¨     Traits: The Big Five and Political Behavior. Jeff Mondak, et al. “An Integrative Framework for the Study of Trait Effects on Political Behavior” (to be posted)

¨     Psychobiography. Sigelman, Lee. 2002. "Two Reagans? Genre Imperatives, Ghostwriters, and Presidential Personality Profiling." Political Psychology 23(4): 839-851.

¨    Authoritarian Personality. Marc Hetherington & Jonathan Weiler. 2009. “Authoritarianism in America.” (to be posted)

      Lecture Outline: Personality and Politics