Thursday, 30 July 2015

AN OVERVIEW ON THE NATURE AND SCOPE OF POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY

Political Psychology is an inter-disciplinary major which brings together Psychologists, Political Scientists, Sociologists, Psychiatrists and Communication Researchers.  The major was originated in the study of leadership and mass political behaviour, and was later broadened to the study of intergroup relations, decision making, mass communication effects, political movements and political mobilization (Erisen, 2012)
The different subfields and approaches within the general field of Political Psychology can be broadly classified into two, 
1. Studying the elite level behaviour: The focus of the political psychologists here are on examining the perceptions of the leaders, shaping of government policies, impact of personality and beliefs on leadership, decision making of the government etc.
2. Studying the mass-level behavior: Here, the focus will be on the behaviour of the ordinary people, their mode of voting, public opinion on government policies, awareness of the public regarding the government and its policies etc. 
One of the key assumptions of the Political Psychology is that the beliefs, past life experiences, personalities etc. of political actors can bring changes.  As per this assumption, history is not just the story of how structures and contexts shape behavior but of how individuals can themselves shape history and politics.  A second assumption is the devotion of political psychologists to what has been termed Homo-Psychologicus (Research Paper, N.D.).
Homo-Psychologicus is a model derived from social and cognitive psychology.  Herbert Simon is one of the pioneers of this model.  As per Homo-Psychologicus, humans are boundedly rational actors.  The information provided by the recognized decision makers (political actors) can be imperfect.  There are limits to cognitive processing capacities of political actors, because they are human beings.  The decision maker may be using various cognitive shortcuts when generating available alternatives as solutions.  All these alternatives may have numerous limitations.  However, the alternative or the solution finally selected by the decision maker will be something he or she would feel confident in its practicality.  These decision makers may behave in non-rational way due to group or broader social pressures.  The behaviour may contrast their beliefs and values.
Political processes concern bridging power differences with society with those within the state; bridges that carry inputs both from society to the state (e.g., the results of elections) and from the state to society (e.g., Presidential speeches; legislation) (Etsioni, 2004).  Politics is not just the influence made by the leader on the public.  It can also be the influence made by the mass on the leader.  But, in order to realize the second one, the mass has to be aware of the fact that knowingly or unknowingly, they are also a part of the politics.  For, each of them is a part of the society.  This power exchange from the public to the leader and from the leader to the public is a solution developed by the society for a liberal human life.  It is Eric Fromm, who suggested that society is a solution. He also put forwarded a political system called humanistic communitarian socialism. 
In the opinion of Fromm, freedom was central to human nature.  At the same time, it is the nature of human beings to have a tendency to escape from this freedom through authoritarianism, destructiveness and automation conformity.  The main reason for this tendency to escape from the freedom is family, where the individual starts learning life.  However, individuals are generally ignorant about the role of family in controlling the freedom.  Viewing in this way, the real “exchange of power” starts from family.  Because of social unconsciousness developed out of the controls by family and relationships, we are unable to identify that society is a solution (Journal Psyche, 2015)
Social unconsciousness can influence the personality of the individuals.  It can make people receptive (believing that world will come to them), exploitative (believing that one has to go and take), hording (being obsessed with holding what one has), marketing (believing that self promotion will help to gain) and productive (knowing the value of freedom) in their orientations.  People behave in society as per their orientations. 
Individuals with productive orientation give reason more than rules.  A productive mass can contribute active involvement in the power exchange from the mass to a leader.  Ignorance of the mass regarding the freedom of rights and responsibilities they have in the society, and thereby in the politics, is indeed an area that comes under the scope of Political Psychology. 
As a political system, now democracy is getting widely accepted by various nations.  In a democratic set up, the real political actor is assumed to be the people.  As Lincoln once noted, it is a system of the people made by the people for the people.  In a democratic nation, citizens have to be active.  Social unconsciousness among the people may tend to make them feel not a part of the society or of a political system.  Results will be the lack of Political Socialization, which has the power to make the nation counter-productive.
In this purview, there seems to have a need to expand the scope of Political Psychology further, from the basic level to an applied level.  Attempts have to be made to enhance the awareness of the availability of freedom for each citizen to intervene the day today power exchanges.  This can be started from the grass-root level, from the individual, from the family and from the society (where the family and the individual exists).  Active participation of each minimal unit of the society can result in a glorious revolution in which the general public becomes the actor and the leader becomes a real representative.
REFERENCES
Erisen, E. (2012). An Introduction to Political Psychology for International Relations Scholars. Perceptions , 17 (3), 9-28.
Etsioni, A. (2004). What is Political?
Journal Psyche. (2015). Eric Fromm and Social Unconscious. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from Journal Psyche: http://journalpsyche.org/eric-fromm-social-unconscious/#more-248
Research Paper. (N.D.). Research Paper on Political Psychology. Retrieved July 30, 2015, from Research Paper: http://research-paper.essayempire.com/examples/political-science/political-psychology/


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