FYS: The Psychology of Mass Politics in the U.S.


Taught during the election season of 2022, this First-Year Seminar looks at the deeper psychological motivations of the American electorate. We begin by discussing the meaning of democracy and establishing a common understanding of American democracy specifically, placing the current moment into historical and international context. We then gradually dismantle the “folk theory” of democracy that assumes all voters are rational and economically-minded. Instead, we apply theories from social psychology to understand some essential questions about voter behavior. Why do people vote? How do they understand politics? How are their feelings and judgments affected by their own identities, biases, information sources, and by the messages they hear from leaders? Why have Americans grown so polarized? What role do racial and gender-based prejudice play? Is American politics headed toward a more violent future? We use evidence-based research from political science, sociology, and psychology to answer these questions. 

Please visit the Office of the Registrar for more information about this course.