Political psychology

Master’s level
15 credits (ECTS)
Study pace
Study form
Application period
Application code
Full education cost: 23 000 SEK
First payment: 23 000 SEK

No fees are charged for EU and EEA citizens, Swedish residence permit holders and exchange students.

More information about tuition fees


This course is intended for those interested in understanding the psychology behind political attitudes and behavior in general and today’s heated political discussions in particular. Focusing on the psychology underlying political activities the course covers a range of political topics, attitudes and behaviors. We will discuss and explain the psychology underlying issues such as political polarization. We will also take a look at topics such as fairness and individual differences in morality from a psychological perspective.


The field of political psychology has grown rapidly in recent years and there is now a range of academic outlets specifically focused on political psychology. On a broad level, political psychology concerns the application of psychological knowledge to the study of politics. As such, the field of political psychology concerns itself with citizens’ political participation, here seen as any number of activities aiming to influence public policy either directly or by affecting the selection of persons who make those policies. Political psychology is an interdisciplinary academic field, dedicated to understanding politics, politicians and political behavior from a psychological perspective, and psychological processes using socio-political perspectives.

Focusing on the psychology underlying political activity the course covers political behavior, political attitudes and political communication. In a series of seminars centered on the most important psychological theories, active participation is required and academic discussions are encouraged. These discussions may come to concern the psychology of political activities such as working on political campaigns, donating money to parties or causes, contacting public officials, petitioning, protesting and working with other people on political issues. Depending on the topic of each seminar, these discussions may also come to concern today’s political trends such as the growing polarization on vaccines and climate policies as well as the psychological roots of the so-called culture war.

The course starts with an overview of psychological theories central to the field. Psychological models of judgment and decision making are compared to economic rational choice models in the context of analysing and predicting behaviour among politicians and citizens. A series of lectures and seminars then cover topics such as economic decisions, resource scarcity, distributive fairness as well as social influence and in- and out-group effects. The lectures and seminars furthermore cover topics related to morality and polarization.

The course will end with each student writing a paper on a chosen topic related to political psychology broadly and centered on a specific political problem or issue, and the psychology underlying it. The student will in the course paper formulate a research question, present and integrate previous research, and arrive at a suggested cause of action and/or implementation of a realistic policy based on relevant psychological theory and research findings. The papers are then presented and discussed at an examination seminar.

Prerequisites and selection

Entry requirements

For admission to the course, completion of university education of at least 180 credits is required at first cycle level. Language skills equivalent to: English 6/English course B from Swedish upper-secondary school or the equivalent knowledge from an international confessed test, such as TOEFL or IELTS.


Selection is based upon the number of credits from previous university studies, maximum 165 credits.

After graduation

The course is focused on how psychological theories and empirical findings can be used to address political issues. The course aims to facilitate students’ ability to analyze, critically assess and discuss real political problems. It provides qualified knowledge related to the growing politicized polarization on for example climate policies. Such knowledge may come of use for students who aim to pursue a career within environmental governance and sustainable development.

The course is taught as a course in psychology at the advanced level at the Department of Psychology at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, as well as a part of the Master's Programme in Political Science: Environmental Governance and Behavior at Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

The course is divided in two parts:

  1. Lectures and seminars 7 hp

    The teaching consists of six lectures and four mandatory discussion seminars. Before each discussion seminar, the students will write a literature synthesis of the mandatory readings of the related articles.

  2. Individually written course paper 8 hp

    Each student writes a paper on a topic related to political psychology broadly. The student will formulate a research question, present and integrate previous research, and arrive at a suggested cause of action and/or implementation of a realistic policy based on relevant psychological theory and research findings. The papers are then presented at an examination seminar.