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The Social Psychology of Political Elites

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This project formed one strand of Meg Russell's 3-year ESRC-funded Fellowship.

This is the most exploratory, and the most innovative, element of the Fellowship. It sought to build interdisciplinary links to see whether new and more accurate theories can be developed to explain the behaviour of political elites, and parliamentarians in particular. At present "behaviouralism" in legislative studies, and in political science more broadly, is heavily influenced by "rational choice". But rational choice models often bear little resemblance to the understanding of the world held by those who have been close to the policy process, and their predictive powers can be weak. Meanwhile, since behavioralism developed in the mid-20th century, social psychologists have built and refined their own explanations of human behaviour. Their findings demonstrate that human beings do not always act "rationally", and indeed when in social situations may behave more as group members than as individuals. As politics is innately a collective pursuit, and generally structured through groups, these results could bring important insights into the study of political institutions.

The project sought to develop new theoretical approaches, by drawing from the literature on social/political psychology and related disciplines. It also sought to build links with academics working in these disciplines with a view to future publications and joint research.

Any academics working in related fields who are interested in this work, and in building research collaborations, are invited to contact the researchers (see below).

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Reflections on the Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission report

Wed, 18 Feb 2015 10:00:37 +0000

Cristina Leston-Bandeira looks back at a year spent considering the options for the use of digital in UK government. She highlights key lessons that emerged from the process and introduces the report published on 26 January 2015. Last month’s launch of the report of the Speaker’s Digital Democracy Commission (DDC) marks the end of an extraordinarily […]

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Enough is enough: Time to regulate prime ministerial appointments to the Lords

Tue, 10 Feb 2015 09:39:49 +0000

This week the Constitution Unit publishes a new report arguing that the time has come to regulate prime ministerial appointments to the House of Lords – to prevent the chamber’s size escalating further, and prevent government manipulating its membership. The report argues that, despite large-scale Lords reform being awaited, this step is urgent ahead of […]

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What would a minority government be like?

Thu, 08 Jan 2015 10:00:57 +0000

As the election approaches, Peter Riddell explores the very real prospect of a minority government and considers the challenges which would be likely to arise from such a scenario. Paul Goodman was right to argue on Conservative Home in November that a minority government may be more likely than a full-blown coalition if there is a hung parliament next […]

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Meg Russell's new book, The Contemporary House of Lords:
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