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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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The age of the new Parliament

Thu, 25 Jun 2015 09:05:31 +0000

The 2015 general election saw the election of the youngest MP since 1832. Chrysa Lamprinakou draws on Parliamentary Candidates UK data to highlight the slow but steady downward shift in the age at which MPs start their careers and the variation across parties. In our previous blog, we discussed the new Parliament’s composition in terms of gender […]

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The new opposition: How will SNP MPs influence Westminster politics?

Mon, 01 Jun 2015 10:59:53 +0000

Louise Thompson argues that the constitutional challenges we will see over the next 5 years will be a product of the changed composition of Parliament. Here, she specifically considers how SNP are likely to try and amend proposed constitutional reforms announced in the Queen’s Speech last week. We are only a couple of weeks in to the 2015 […]

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What the Queen said – and what she didn’t say

Thu, 28 May 2015 12:35:34 +0000

Following yesterday’s Queen’s Speech, Robert Hazell considers the constitutional issues that featured, as well as those which were notable in their absence. There were few surprises in the Queen’s Speech announcing the new government’s legislative programme. Like his admired predecessor Tony Blair, David Cameron knows that the public have little interest in constitutional issues, so […]

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