POL S 425 A: Political Psychology And War

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MW 2:20pm - 4:30pm
SWS 032
Andrew S. Cockrell

Syllabus Description:


Overview: In this course, students will study how concepts and arguments from political psychology explain war and peace in international relations. We begin with an examination of classic deterrence theory. We then study beliefs, which are central to psychology. Students investigate cognitive and motivated biases and their effects on perceptions of intentions and signals. For the remainder of the quarter, we study key arguments about justice, analogies, risk, trust, attribution, intelligence, and status and reputation. Throughout the quarter students will develop a research paper, exploring a topic of interest in greater detail.


Learning Goals: By the end of this course, students should be able to…

1) describe central concepts and arguments in political psychology

2) use these to explain questions in international security

3) apply key arguments and concepts to evaluate developments in international news

4) evaluate arguments and evidence with increased proficiency

5) research and write with increased proficiency


Course Texts:

All articles are posted as PDFs on the course website. Thomas Schelling's Arms and Influence can be purchased separately for about $20 from an external vendor (such as Amazon), read online through the UW library website, or checked out for a four-hour loan at the Odegaard course reserves desk. Daily reading of The New York Times is also required. A subscription can be purchased with a student discount in the HUB Games Area or online via nytimes.com.


Grading: Two in-class exams (25% each), a 3,500-word research paper (30%), and participation in class discussions (20%) comprise each student's course grade. Make-up exams will not be given without the instructor's permission prior to an exam or a physician’s letter within 48 hours of an exam.


Participation: Students should come to class ready to discuss, having read the morning news, read the assigned texts, and completed the reading questions. Reading questions are designed to help students identify key concepts and engage key arguments in the texts. The questions will be posted to the course website about five days in advance of each class meeting. We will use these as the basis for class discussions. Participation means making verbal contributions to discussion, based on a careful reading of the news and course texts. Participation will be graded on discussion, not on attendance. For example, a student who attends all class meetings but does not contribute to any of the discussions will receive zero points for partipation. Students who are reluctant to participate verbally (because of physical capability, language profieciency, or social concerns, for example) are very welcome to contact the instructor in the first week of the quarter to arrange alternative ways to earn participation points. As part of the participation grade, each student will also be responsible for briefly presenting and leading discussion of the texts for one designated class session.



Accommodations: Students with university-approved accommodations should contact the instructor during the first week of the quarter, and we can easily make arrangements.


Electronics Policy: Students have the right to a learning environment free from the disruption of messaging, social media, surfing, and games. To ensure this, all electronic devices are prohibited during class and must be silenced and put away before entering the classroom. Students wishing to use an electronic device to take notes or to audio-record lecture/discussion must obtain permission from the instructor in advance and sign the Responsible Use Agreement. Individuals who violate this policy or the agreement will be asked to leave and excuse themselves from class meetings for the remainder of the quarter.

Catalog Description: 
Explores how political scientists use psychology to address questions of war and peace.
Department Requirements: 
International Relations Field
International Security Option
GE Requirements: 
Individuals and Societies (I&S)
Last updated: 
January 10, 2018 - 9:36pm