Political Psychology

By Kristen Renwick Monroe | Go to book overview
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21
A Paradigm for Political Psychology
KRISTEN R. MONROE
University of California at Irvine

The richness of political psychology is amply illustrated in the previous chapters of this volume. Yet, as one contributor commented, there is no one basic theory associated with political psychology, no underlying paradigm that gives unity and coherence to political psychology as a field.1 As I assess the field as a whole, I would argue that it is not the lack of theory but rather the overabundance of insightful theories that blinds us to an underlying paradigm in political psychology. Such a paradigm does exist, however, and can be discerned if we review the major theories in political psychology with an eye for the common element. Doing so suggests that many important theories in political psychology rest on implicit assumptions concerning perceptions of the self and others. In this chapter I weave these tacit assumptions together into a simple paradigm for political psychology, and argue that it is the cognitive component of perspective that provides the basic underlying paradigm for political psychology.

I begin this final chapter by describing what I mean by perspective and what I define as its core assumptions. I next suggest how perspective draws on several bodies of literature in political psychology, from framing theory to social cognition theory. I then demonstrate how perspective provides a more encompassing paradigm than rational choice theory, arguably the dominant paradigm existing in social science today and one that essentially is a theory about the human psychology. I argue that if political psychology can refine perspective in the years to come it not only will solidify its own

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1
Private conversation with David Sears, the War Tribunals in Holland, Summer, 1999.

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