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Political psychology is an interdisciplinary subject that covers a wide range of activities, from politics and terrorism or even extreme policy outcome activities such as war to more ordinary political activities such as voting. In this context, the discipline has created various questioning methods for in-depth analysis of problems such as to why did racism come about, what leads to genocide, the motivations behind political decisions or voting, and what are the elements that make people become terrorists. The basic approach that the discipline of political psychology refers to in the field of research is defined as the Cognitive Approach, which assumes that people have individual mental processes that perceive the environment differently. The approach of political psychology to problems is based on an integral understanding of analytical psychology. As a multidisciplinary and integrative endeavour, it also tries to put forward a historical evaluation with a psychological perspective. Political psychology not only examines the psychological factors that play a role in relationships by taking into account the relations of large groups, masses, and nations with each other, but also analyses the relevant dimensions of relations between large groups and nations and their leaders. Political psychology may be seen as a source linking psychological factors to social practices and relating psychological processes to social events.

With its inception as a separate discipline sometime in the 20th century, but the formation of an official society only in 1978, important scholars discussed the relationship between psychology and political processes as early as ancient Greece. Similarly, Machiavelli presents a complex and sophisticated manual for how a Prince should use psychology to gain political power. De Tocqueville makes the revolution of rising expectations and the concept of relative deprivation key to the fall of the old regime in France. Finally, the Founding Fathers built the American system of governance on critical assumptions about human nature, setting up checks and balances to counter human tendencies toward domination. The practical political world is similarly filled with assumptions about how relations among people might be said to be inevitably linked with human psychology; appeals to character are a longstanding staple in democratic politics and every precinct committee member understands the electoral importance of the bandwagon and the underdog effect. Political psychology has a more difficult time pinpointing its official birth date as an independent discipline. Its problem-driven lineage exists in Freud’s work on civilization, its discontents, and in the later mid-twentieth century American behavioural movement, which sought to apply scientific methods to explain critical political events. Harold Lasswell’s efforts to understand fascism and communism, and the interest of later scholars in explaining World War-II and the Cold War, produced an explosion of work asking why people think and act as they do, and how their thoughts and actions shape the course of politics.


In January 1978, in the USA, influential psychoanalysts, political scientists, and economists were brought together by Jeanne Knutson and the Society of Political Psychology was established. Professor Vamik Volkan was the fourth president of the society and the charter of the society was written during his tenure. Today, it has spread throughout the world and psychoanalysis is an important component of its scope. As a result, political psychology has developed in various directions. Psychoanalytic political psychology has also spread because of the work of Volkan and his colleagues in the 1980s under the auspices of the University of Virginia. Some of the concepts they introduced are used to understand relationships between large groups and to develop diplomatic strategies. For example, topics such as the concept of ‘selected trauma’ have been developed in policy studies.

In Turkey, the Political Psychology Centre was established in 1992 with the approval of then Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel, but it became inactive after 1997. During its working years, books on the psychology of ethnic terrorism, political change, and new ethnic structuring in the Soviet Union among others were published. The basic issues that political psychology covers may be summarised as follows: what is leadership and what are the leadership qualities; what is political psychology, and how it affects the members of the society and the political actors; how do opinions, attitudes and behaviours influence politics; how do the ethnic groups or sub- identities affect the political preferences; what is the role of political psychology in a country’s management and in political crisis whether national or international; how are the phenomena such as diaspora, immigration and homesickness examined in terms of political psychology and social psychology; and what are the contributions and effects of media on individual political preferences and political group formation.


Since the 1930s, political psychology has established itself as an academic discipline. In the 1960s, it survived the cognitive revolution, and more recently, factored in the emergence of emotions as the foremost variables of political attitudes and decisions. Lately, innovative technologies in neuroimaging, new data accessible through genetic findings and new studies on the physiology of human behaviour have brought an epidemiological perception of political psychology. With political psychology at the state level, public scrutiny, and the detection of internal constraints on foreign policy decisions, enrich understanding. In short, at every level of analysis, political psychology, the study of individual, social cognitive, and emotional mechanisms contribute to the study of international relations by developing understanding. Political psychology also contributes to international relations theory. As James M Goldgeier and Philip E Tetlock have put forth, almost all theories in international relations may get assistance from psychology in elucidating things that are not readily accounted for by the rational model of decision making.

Abnormalities and boundary conditions may be best addressed by understanding the political role of the individual. The understanding of political psychology at the individual or group level will help develop the explanatory power of international relations theories by providing more information about the relevant processes. In short, international relations experts have a lot to learn from the perspective provided by this discipline

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