Thinking about Political Psychology

Thinking about Political Psychology

Thinking about Political Psychology

Thinking about Political Psychology

Synopsis

Leading scholars in political psychology discuss and debate major issues facing the field of political psychology. They define the boundaries of the field, debate its relevance, consider whether the field is too methodologically individualistic, and whether it can help scholars to understand collective public opinion.

Excerpt

Fields of scientific inquiry follow a common pattern. At the outset, excitement and enthusiasm prevail as a small group of founders offers a new conceptual framework and, usually, a new, related methodology. Sometimes the specific topics of inquiry are also new, at other times only the ways to think about them. Other, often young, scholars adopt the new perspective, and before long it becomes an active, visible part of the discipline. Typically, this very growth in prominence portends the beginning of a leveling off, if not decline, in research activity. Continuing scholarship takes the form of adding small increments of knowledge to the key central questions that the founders had posed much earlier.

Often missing from this sequence is a self-evaluation by the practitioners themselves. Concerned, as they should be, with substantive questions, the researchers don't stop to scrutinize what they do and how it fits into the larger discipline of which they are part. The criticisms usually come from elsewhere and consequently tend to undercut rather than strengthen the field.

In this volume, political psychologists take a hard look at political psychology. They pose, and then address, the kinds of tough questions that those outside of the field would be inclined to ask and those inside should satisfactorily be able to answer. Not everyone will agree with the answers the authors provide, and, in some cases, the best an author can do is offer well-grounded speculations. Nonetheless, the chapters raise questions that, if taken seriously, will lead to an improved political psychology.

But, one might protest, the idea of political psychologists evaluating political psychology is equivalent to the idea of police officers monitoring their own department. In both cases, the conclusions are foreordained, such that the scientific field in one case and the department in the other will be evaluated more positively than it should be. It is indeed true that most of the chapters that follow find an important role forxg781 . . .

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