Political changed from the behaviors of political figures

Psychology is an emerging field of social science that seeks to understand
political behaviour and outcomes through the study of human experiences, behaviours
and relations. This academic interdisciplinary field uses from political
science, psychology; and other disciplines such as sociology and economics. As political
psychology is a relatively new branch of research, its evolution has been well
documented. Initially, political psychology was based on much speculation and
theory-driven explanations. In contrast, modern political psychology research
is more objective, scientifically rigorous and based on formal experiments. Additionally,
the focus of research has changed from the behaviors of political figures into how
groups dynamics can impact political participation. Political psychology has
attempted to disprove that humans are rational thinkers through arguing that individuals
are greatly influenced by group dynamics, authority and, prejudice and bias’.


Early political
psychology was mainly directed by the use of psychobiographies and
psychoanalysis. Psychobiography was primarily used to study political figures
to understand the motives of political actions and behaviors. Psychobiography contributed
to a better understanding of behaviors, motivations and personalities (t’Hart 2010,
pg.100). Early political psychology was influenced by
the work of Sigmund Freud who determined that the adult personality is
developed through past formative experiences; especially experiences in
childhood (Post 2013, pg.460). Thus, his ideas of child-parent relationships
had a significant influence on the conducting of psychobiographies (Post 2013,
pg.483). Freud’s theories have
been applied to the study of political psychology by scholars such as, Lasswell,
Greenstein, Barber, Davies and Graham Little (founder
of The Melbourne School) (Martin 2018).

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Harold Lasswell was a political scientist who
was credited as the founding father of political psychology. He applied Freud’s
theory of formed personalities into the examination and desires of political
leadership, in which he determined that a political figure seeks power in order
to overcome a low self-image developed in childhood (Post 2013, pg.465). On the
other hand, Greenstein and Barber have used psychoanalysis techniques in order
to develop psychological profiles of past and present presidents of the United
States (Martin 2018; Barber 1992, pg.4). However, psychobiography was criticized
as not being able to falsify, too subjective and not based on rigorous scientific
research (Martin 2018). In response to criticisms, political psychology evolved
from the subjective science of psychoanalysis to more objective and
scientifically driven research where empirical data can be generated from
research findings.  


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