Six Models of Political Psychology

The influence of multiple psychological schools, as well as a large number of related disciplines, has given rise to several models in political psychology. Each one is unique.
Six Models of Political Psychology

Last update: 17 August, 2021

There are several models in the field of political psychology. Furthermore, it’s one of the most controversial areas in the discipline of psychology. There are several reasons for this. Firstly, it’s multidisciplinary. This means it’s a  field in which many disciplines come together. Therefore, whichever one is most prominent determines the model.

Another reason why there are so many models in political psychology is the nature of politics itself. Political psychology involves analyzing power. There are many different perspectives on this capability. These, in turn, become models of analysis.

Finally, political psychology doesn’t avoid the contrasting views of the several schools and perspectives in psychology. In fact, these tend to add nuances to the way in which psychology approaches political phenomena. In this article, we mention six models in political psychology.

“The important thing, in our view, is that we need to know what and who we work for when we work in psychology. And we see political psychology as a practical area for reflection on those burning issues.”

 -Elio Rodolfo Parisí-

Liberation psychology

This model adopts a critical perspective. It emerged in Latin America during the 80s. Martin Baró led this movement. The idea is that psychology should approach political phenomena as the search for social transformation.

In this model, psychologists analyze power and political activities from the perspective of oppressed groups. They aim to build social awareness against the actions of power.

Collective political psychology

Along with social psychology, this model belongs to a much larger area of knowledge known as collective psychology. Pablo Fernández Christlieb originated this particular model, once again, in South America.

Collective political psychology proposes the analysis of political phenomena as systems of expression and interpretations of reality. Thanks to these systems, experiences, objects, and events are created and discovered that are endowed with meaning. Together, they make up the collective political reality.

Rhetorical-discursive

This is one of the youngest models in political psychology. It emerged from the constructionist perspective. It suggests that reality lies in the language that constructs it. In fact, it proposes that reality is configured from processes of naming, deciphering, explaining, and the attribution of meaning.

The rhetorical discursive model proposes that political psychology should be responsible for the study of the construction and function of political discourse. Within this discourse, lie the reasons, justifications, causes, and effects of political behavior. In fact, political action is seen as an act of language.

Psychohistorical

This model aims to unite Marxism and psychoanalysis to study political phenomena. Wilhelm Reich promoted this model with his idea of Freudo-Marxism. This perspective proposes that the historical factor is essential for understanding the political processes of individuals and societies.

With this model, psychologists analyze political facts from historical documents, both of individuals and groups. The analysis of psychobiographies is a central element of this approach. That’s because its main idea is that psychological phenomena affect the development and characterization of political groups and movements.

Rationalist

Of all the models in political psychology, this is the closest to the cognitive-behavioral model. In fact, it’s particularly important in countries like the USA. There are several approaches within this model. However, they all share the common premise that political conduct is the fruit of reasoned actions.

The rationalist model promotes the idea that political actions rise from conscious motivations, processes of comparison, evolution, and decision-making. Political conduct is oriented to the search for stability, consistency, and balance within the social context in which it occurs.

Materialist

Like the psycho-historical approach, this model starts from the idea that historical facts are fundamental to the understanding of political phenomena. This model also established the premise that the socio-economic determines collective life and, hence, politics.

In addition, the materialist model gives great importance to the study of the processes of ideology and alienation. These are seen as being associated with specific interests. Furthermore, they contribute to maintaining inequalities in society.

All of these models are still developing. They all emerged in the second half of the twentieth century. However, while they’ve been configured and enriched over time, they’re still under construction.

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  • Parisí, E. R. (2008). Definiendo a la psicología política. Boletín (Sociedad de Psicología del Uruguay. En línea), (46), 20-38.