Political Psychology

The field: Political psychology has emerged as a major subfield of political science and a focal research interest of psychology.  The growth of the field is reflected in the establishment of an academic society, the International Society of Political Psychology, the formation of  Political Psychology sections in both the American Political Science Association and the European Consortium of Political Research and the emergence of major journals devoted to political psychology in both the US and Europe.

The graduate program: The concentration at UC Irvine is one of several programs that have emerged in the US over the last 15 years.  The program draws on the School of Social Sciences’ tradition of interdisciplinary research and boasts the active participation of distinguished faculty in political science, psychology, critical theory and medicine.  The UC Irvine program is unique in the US in several important respects:

  • It emphasizes the need to combine rigorous empirical research with a serious consideration of the broader concerns of normative and analytical political theory.
  • Students are required to do substantial coursework in both political science and psychology.
  • It recognizes an array of research methods including: open-ended interviewing, semi-structured interviews, surveys and the observation of behavior.  It also recognizes the value of a variety of research designs including: case studies, sample surveys and experiments.
  • The program hosts the Southern California Political Psychology Workshop.  Twice a year, this brings faculty and graduate students from the California area together for a one day conference on the UC Irvine campus.
  • Through the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality, the program also maintains formal linkage with the Caucus of Concerned Scholars: Committee on Ethics and Morality of the International Society of Political Psychology


Program Requirements

Educational requirements:

  1. Two of three core courses offered in political psychology:  These include:  Intro to Political Psychology I, Intro to Political Psychology II, and Emotion & Politics.
  2. Three additional graduate courses in cognitive, social or developmental psychology.  Courses offered by Concentration faculty are recommended (see attached list).  However other courses may be taken with permission of the Director.
  3. One qualifying paper in the field of political psychology. 

Administrative requirements:

All students must register with the Political Psychology Concentration prior to the receipt of the doctoral degree.  This involves submission of a one page form.  This can be obtained from John Sommerhauser.


Faculty and Graduate Course Offerings

Core Faculty:

Pete Ditto, Professor of Psychology & Chair, Department of Psychology and Social Behavior
P214 Seminar in Social Psychology (survey of the field)
P275 Social Cognition

I have a general interest in political attitudes and cognition.  My recent research has been on motivated cognition, with a particular focus on moral and political judgments. The central thesis here is that cognition is affective, largely unself-conscious and automatic rather than rational, self-aware and reflective. I have also done work on the attractiveness of political mavericks as presidential candidates.

David Easton, Distinguished Professor of Political Science (Emeritus)

My interests are in the analysis of political structures and the relationship between them and the individuals they regulate.  In this context, I have a particular interest in political socialization. [David is a former President of the American Political Science Association.]

Mark Fisher, Professor of Neurology
PS 219 Emotion & Politics

My interests in political psychology focus on understanding the role of emotion in political behavior and political decision-making, from the perspectives of both neurobiology and psychoanalysis.  I also teach an undergraduate course on Freud & Politics.  My research interests in political psychology involve the effects of brain aging on political decision-making and leadership.  My other interest in political science is legal medicine, including implications of new brain imaging modalities on end-of-life decisions.
Eric Knowles, Assistant Professor of Psychology
P275 Attribution Theory
P275 Cultural Psychology

My recent research has focused on ideology, identity, and intergroup motivations. In particular, I am interested in how members of dominant groups (e.g., Whites) understand their position in the social order, and how this understanding shapes their attitudes toward redistributive social policies (e.g., affirmative action). In this context, I study how ideologies (e.g., "color-blindness") serve to legitimize, justify, and therefore entrench patterns of societal inequality.

Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor of Psychology
P263 Memory and the Law

My current research focuses on memory, particularly on false memories. People can be led to develop entire memories for events that never happened - "Rich false memories." People can even be led to falsely believe that they had experiences that would have been rather traumatic had they actually happened.   False memories, like true ones, have consequences for people, affecting later thoughts, intentions, and behaviors.

Sal Maddi, Professor of Psychology
P244 Personality
P235 Existential Psychology

I pursue a wide range of interests in personality and psychopathology. I am especially concerned with stress management and creativity. In my view, these are best considered related concerns, integrated by the personality hardiness model. Through deepening the attitudes of commitment, control, and challenge marking hardiness, persons can simultaneously develop, reach their potentialities, and cope with the stresses encountered on the way.
Kristen Monroe, Professor of Political Science
Introduction to Political Psychology II

I work on issues in moral psychology and is completing a book on moral choice during the Holocaust. I am best known for her work on altruism
and moral choice.  [Kristen is a former President of the International Society of Political Psychology and Vice-President of the American Political Science Association.]

Kevin Olson, Associate Professor of Political Science
Agonism and Politics of Freedom (classes vary each year)

My research includes the analysis of issues of collective identity formation as it relates to citizenship, popular sovereignty, and cultural and political identity.  I also work on problems of language, power, and political reflexivity.

Shawn Rosenberg, Concentration Director & Professor of Political Science & Psychology
Introduction to Political Psychology I
Deliberative Democracy (The Social Psychology of Political Communication)

I have a general theoretical interest in how to conceptualize and study the relationship between the individual, society and politics. My empirical research focuses on political cognition, socio-cognitive development, political socialization, social & national identity and deliberative democracy. [Shawn is former Chair of the Political Psychology Section of the American Political Science Association and member of the Governing Council of the International Political Psychology Association.]  

Gabriele Schwab, Professor of English
Emergent Subjectivities in Global Cultures
The Colonization of Psychic Space
Subjectivity and Subjection (with Kaushik Sunder Rajan from Anthropology)
Psychoanalysis, Race and Gender
The Postcolonial Unconscious

My current research interests are concerning the issue of violent histories and trans-generational trauma.  In addition I am also beginning to work on war children, especially child soldiers, but this after I am finishing up a book project on Imaginary Ethnographies that concerns literary forms of writing culture.

Associated faculty at other institutions:

While not on located campus, the following professors are actively associated with the program.  They are occasional visitors at UCI.  More importantly, they assist in the review of qualifying papers and the supervision of doctoral candidates.  They also host UCI students at their home universities.  The participation reflects the program’s commitment to conceiving political psychology as an international field of inquiry.
John Cash, Senior Lecturer, University of Melbourne

I am interested in how social and political identities are socially constructed and managed by individuals.  In doing so, I draw on contemporary social theory and current forms of psychoanalysis.  In my work, I have focused on the Australian myths of homeland and the management of identities in the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Janusz Reykowski, Professor of Psychology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw School of Social Psychology

My research has focused broadly on question of politics and psychology.  In the past my work has focused on the problem of altruism.  I have also done research on people’s concepts of and attitudes toward democracy.  Most recently I have focused on the social psychological dynamics of citizen deliberations.

Marco Steenbergen, Professor of Political Sociology and Political Psychology, University of Berne, Switzerland

My research interests lie in the fields of political psychology and quantitative methods.  I currently focus on (1) humanitarian values attitudes toward welfare policies, (2) democratic deliberation and (3) multilevel models in political inquiry.




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