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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 Speaker election row tells us two important things about parliament

Thu, 09 Apr 2015 09:00:40 +0000

On 26 March, its final sitting day, the House of Commons rejected government proposals to reform how the Speaker is elected at the start of the new parliament. Here Meg Russell reflects on what this teaches us about parliament, suggesting it holds two lessons. First, that the 2010 House of Commons was more resistant than […]

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Farewell to the Commons: Reflections on parliamentary change over 40 years

Tue, 24 Mar 2015 11:00:47 +0000

On 4 March Jack Straw and Sir George Young spoke at a Constitution Unit valedictory event where they considered how parliament has changed since the 1970s. Sam Sharp offers an overview of the discussion. Jack Straw and Sir George Young have 77 years of parliamentary experience between them – Straw was first elected in 1979, […]

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Implementing the recommendations of the Digital Democracy Commission: Where to now?

Mon, 16 Mar 2015 11:00:36 +0000

Last week saw a Westminster Hall debate to discuss the report of the Speaker’s Commission on Digital Democracy. Andy Williamson argues that while concrete steps are being taken to implement some of the recommendations, greater drive will be needed to create a coherent long-term programme for the digital modernisation of Parliament. The Speaker’s Commission on […]

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