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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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Defining the office of Prime Minister

Mon, 14 Jul 2014 10:00:36 +0000

The British Prime Minister has extensive and growing powers, yet the role is ill-defined in UK constitutional documents. Graham Allen argues in favour of clarifying the role of the Prime Minister. He also suggests it should become a directly elected office, to ensure that it is properly answerable to the UK public. It is symptomatic of the British […]

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Pressures are growing for Commons bill committee reform

Mon, 07 Jul 2014 10:00:54 +0000

In June 2013 the Constitution Unit published Fitting the Bill: Bringing Commons Legislation Committees into Line with Best Practice, proposing a series of changes to Commons bill committees. Last week the issue was brought back into the headlines, as John Bercow emphasised the need for reform. Last Monday at a lecture for the Study of Parliament […]

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Concerns about the Steel/Byles Lords reform bill: a summary

Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:01:07 +0000

David Steel’s Lords reform bill (previously sponsored in the Commons by Dan Byles) had its second reading in the chamber on Friday. Last night the Constitution Unit and Constitution Society jointly hosted a meeting in the Lords to discuss concerns about the bill. Its main provisions – allowing peers to retire, and for the expulsion of serious criminals - have […]

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