Political Psychology


POLS 407                                                                                           Dr. Rebecca J. Hannagan

Spring 2007                                                                                        406 Zulauf Hall

T/Th 12:30 – 1:45 pm                                                                       rhannaga@niu.edu

Dusable 252                                                                                       Hours:  T/Th 2 - 3:30 pm,

& by appointment


Course Objective:

Although the course description reads “Attitude and Value Formation,” this course is really about “Political Pscyhology.”  What is political psychology?  Political psychology as a field is defined largely by its preoccupation with the role of human thought, emotion, and behavior in politics.  Rather than reviewing the entire field of political psychology and its various approaches (which would be tenuous if not impossible), this course will focus on the psychology of individual citizens and the psychology of groups.

We will begin with the individual in political society. What are people’s connections to the societies that form the basis of their views about politics? How do people come to understand their places in those societies, and how do they view and interact with others?  In the second part of the course we will look at psychological aspects of groups – particularly group identity and its affect on political behavior.  One of the things that is so fascinating about political psychology is that it speaks to so many aspects of political phenomena – from American politics, to comparative politics, to international relations.  Political psychology is important to understanding how ethnic identities contribute to state conflict, how voters react to the particular traits of leaders or campaign rhetoric, and how the gender composition of a group may affect how decisions are made.  I encourage you to “think outside the box” in this class and try to widely apply the concepts we cover to other areas of political science.

The readings for this course are, at times, atypical of a course in political science.  Some of the readings are quite dense and may contain complex methodologies.  Do not let this scare you away.  I do not expect you to understand everything you will be reading immediately.  I do, however, expect you to spend some time with the readings and do your best to get at what each reading is about, generally, and why it matters to our consideration of political psychology.  Sometimes this will not be obvious.  You will have to do a considerable amount of analytical thinking and writing in this course.  As we progress through the material it is my hope that you will become more comfortable with the readings and your ability to react to them.  Reading difficult material and then thinking analytically about the possible implications is a skill – and a skill that you can learn. 


Course Materials: 

  • Materials on reserve at the Library
  • Articles posted on Blackboard and on JSTOR
  • Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment by George Marcus, W. Russell Neuman, and Michael B. MacKuen
  • The Sentimental Citizen: Emotion in Democratic Politics by George Marcus


You are expected to have your reading done each day before you come to class.  This is a seminar style course, based more on discussion than lecture.  Part of your grade is contingent upon your participation in class discussion so it is important that you come to class prepared to discuss the material. 


Calculation of Grades: 

Your grade in this course will consist of your performance on two exams (a midterm and a final exam), one longer paper, four reaction papers, and class participation.  The following is a breakdown of how the grades will be weighted:


Midterm Exam            15%                 Reaction Papers          25%                 Participation    20%

Final Exam                  15%                 Paper                           25%                


I will adhere to the following grading scale:

100-97% = A+

89-87% = B+

79-77% = C+

69-67% = D+

59% < = F

96-93% = A

86-83% = B

76-73% = C

66-63% = D


92-90% = A-

82-80% = B-

72-70% = C-

62-60% = D-



General Information: 

I do not accept late work, nor do I offer make-up exams (NO EXCEPTIONS! Don’t ask).  If your homework or paper is late, you will receive a 0 on that assignment.  If you do not show up for an exam, you will receive a 0 on that exam.  If you have a situation that requires exception, you must notify me well in advance and be prepared to produce documentation. 


Blackboard is your friend.  Check it often for announcements and important course documents.  I reserve the right to modify the schedule in the interest of time or due to the difficulty of the material.  If I decide to modify the schedule I will notify the class immediately upon my decision and post an announcement on Blackboard.  If changes are made and you are not aware of them because you do not regularly attend class or choose to sleep during class there will be no exceptions made to accommodate you.  It is in your best interest to attend every class and pay attention to the material being covered.


No cell phone use during class (including text messaging).  Please turn your cell phones off (and not just on vibrate).  Please do not read the newspaper, talk to your friends or sleep during class. Do not come to class late or leave early.  These are inappropriate behaviors for a university class and are disruptive to your peers.  Be respectful of those around you. 


This syllabus is a contract between me (the professor) and you (the student).  The syllabus will be available on Blackboard throughout the semester for your reference.  If you have any questions about the policies set forth in the syllabus, I highly recommend that you talk to me during the first week of classes.  It is at that time that any significant changes can be made.  After that, if you choose to remain in the class I assume that you agree to the policies and procedures I have set forth in the syllabus. 


Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities.  Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CARR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building.  CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors.  It is important that CARR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


For important information on the Department of Political Science, please visit: http://polisci.niu.edu/


Academic Dishonesty:  

The maintenance of academic honesty and integrity is of vital concern to the Department of Political Science and the University community. Any student found guilty of academic dishonesty shall be subject to both academic and disciplinary sanctions.  If I find that you have plagiarized your academic work, you will receive an F on the assignment – no exceptions.  If you are caught cheating, falsifying, or otherwise misrepresenting your work twice you will fail the class.  In addition, if I suspect academic dishonesty your name will be turned over to the Chair of the Political Science Department who will make a determination as to further disciplinary action which may include academic probation or expulsion.


Academic dishonesty includes, but is not limited to, the following: cheating, fabrication and falsification, plagiarism, and misrepresentation to avoid academic work.  If you are unsure whether something is considered academic dishonesty, ask me.  It is much better to be overzealous at the outset and ask many questions to avoid being accused of cheating, plagiarism, and so forth.  I would like to reiterate that I take this very seriously and therefore, so should you.



Tentative Schedule:


January 16:  Introduction and course overview


I.          How the Mind Works


January 18:  Theory of Mind, Epistemology and the Standard Social Science Model

  • Pinker, Steven.  1997.  How the Mind Works.  New York:  W.W. Norton.  Chapter 1.


January 23:  The Mind

  • Gladwell, Malcolm.  2005.  Blink:  The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  New York: Little Brown.  Introduction.
  • Wilson, Timothy D. 2002.  Strangers to Ourselves:  Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious.  Cambridge, MA:  Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.  Chapter 2.


January 25:  The Mind

  • Wilson, Timothy D. 2002.  Strangers to Ourselves:  Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious.  Cambridge, MA:  Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.  Chapter 3.
  • Pinker, Steven.  1997.  How the Mind Works.  New York:  W.W. Norton.  Chapter 5.



  • First Reaction Paper Due Over “The Mind” readings


II.        The Role of Emotion


January 30:  Emotion

  • Marcus, George.  2002.  The Sentimental Citizen:  Emotion in Democratic Politics.  Penn State Press.  Chapters 1 – 3.


February 1:  Emotion

  • Marcus, George.  2002.  The Sentimental Citizen:  Emotion in Democratic Politics.  Penn State Press.  Chapters 4 – 8.


February 6:  Emotion

  • Marcus, George, W. Russell Neuman, and Michael B. MacKuen.  2000.  Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  Chapters TBA.


February 8:  Emotion

  • Marcus, George, W. Russell Neuman, and Michael B. MacKuen.  2000.  Affective Intelligence and Political Judgment.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  Chapters TBA.
  • Second Reaction Paper Due over “Emotion” readings


III.       Political Cognition


February 13:  Political Cognition

  • Lupia, Arthur and Matthew McCubbins.  1998.  The Democratic Dilemma: Can Citizens Learn What They Need to Know?  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.  Chapter 2.


February 15:  Political Cognition

  • Zaller, John R., and Stanley Feldman.  1992.  “A Simple Theory of the Survey Response:  Answering Questions Versus Revealing Preferences.”  American Journal of Political Science  36: 579-616.


February 20:  Political Cognition

  • Lodge, Milton, Marco R. Steenbergen, and Shawn Brau.  1995.  “The Responsive Voter:  Campaign Information and the Dynamics of Candidate Evaluation.”  American Political Science Review  89: 309-326.


February 22:  Political Cognition

  • Kuklinski, James H., and Paul J. Quirk.  2000.  “Reconsidering the Rational Public:  Cognition, Heuristics, and Mass Opinion.”  In Arthur Lupia, Matthew D. McCubbins, and Samuel L. Popkin, eds., Elements of Reason: Cognition, Choice, and the Bounds of Rationality.  New York: Cambridge University Press.


February 27:  Discussion of Papers – Topic Selection and Writing


March 1:  Discussion of Papers – Library Research


March 6:  Political Cognition

  • Jervis, Robert.  1993.  “The Drunkard’s Search.”  In Shanto Iyengar and William J. McGuire, eds., Explorations in Political Psychology.  Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
  • Third Reaction Paper Due over “Political Cognition” Readings


March 8:  No Class (early Spring Break)


March 13:  No Class (Spring Break)


March 15:  No Class (Spring Break)


IV.       Persuasion and Attitude Change


March 20:  Persuasion and Attitude Change

  • Milburn, Michael A. 1991.  “Persuasive Communications and Attitude Change.”  In Persuasion and Politics:  The Social Psychology of Public Opinion.  Belmont, CA: Wadsworth. 


March 22:  Persuasion and Attitude Change

  • Cobb, Michael D., and James Kuklinski.  1997.  “Changing Minds: Political Arguments and Political Persuasion.”  American Journal of Political Science  41: 88-121.


March 27:  Persuasion and Attitude Change

  • Baum, Matthew A. 2002.  “Sex, Lies, and War:  How Soft News Brings Foreign Policy to the Inattentive Public.”  American Political Science Review  96: 91-109.
  • Fourth Reaction Paper Due over “Persuasion and Attitude Change” Readings.


March 29:  Review for Exam


April 3:  Midterm Exam (although it really isn’t midterm)


V.        Group Identity and Dynamics


April 5:  Group Identity

  • Conover, Pamela Johnston. 1988.  “The Role of Social Groups in Political Thinking.”  British Journal of Political Science 18: 51-75.


April 10:  Group Identity

  • Sidanius, Jim and Felicia Pratto. 2001.  “Social Dominance Theory:  A New Synthesis.”  in Social Dominance:  An Intergroup Theory of Social Hierarchy and Oppression.  New York: Cambridge University Press. 


April 12:  No Class (Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference)


April 17:  Group Identity

  • Pratto, Felicia, Debora G. Tatar, and Sahr Conway-Lanz.  1999.  “Who Gets What and Why: Determinants of Social Allocations.”  Political Psychology  20: 127-150.


April 19:  Group Dynamics

  • Tetlock, Philip E., Randall S. Peterson, Charles McGuire, Shi-jie Chang, and Peter Field.  1992.  “Assessing Political Group Dynamics:  A Test of the GroupThink Model.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 63: 403-425.


April 24:  Group Dynamics

  • Hannagan, Rebecca J., Christopher W. Larimer, and Kevin B. Smith.  2006.  “Decision Making in Gendered Groups:  Contexts, Preferences, and Outcomes.”  Unpublished manuscript under review.


April 26:  No Class – Work on Papers


May 1:  No Class – Work on Papers


May 3:  Last Day of Class – Review for Final and Evaluations

  • Papers Due


Final Exam:  TBA