Syllabus and Calendar

Course Meeting Times

Seminar: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Prerequisites

The permission of the instructor.

Course Overview

This course is premised on the belief that emotions are a fundamental part of human nature. Accordingly, understanding emotions and incorporating emotions into our research can help us better explain variation in important political phenomena. As shown by the figure below taken from a recent summary article in the Annual Review of Psychology, research on emotions and how emotions can influence decision-making has dramatically increased over the past two decades. The class aims to pick up on new findings from psychology and other disciplines and marshal this knowledge toward the most important issues of political science.

Lerner, Jennifer S., Ye Li, Piercarlo Valdesolo, et al. Figure 1 in “Emotion and Decision Making.” Annual Review of Psychology 66 (2015): 799–823. © Annual Reviews. All rights reserved. This content is excluded from our Creative Commons license. For more information, see https://ocw.mit.edu/help/faq-fair-use/

The course is divided into three sections. The first section aims to define emotions and their general features. We will also examine the relationship between emotion and reason, the interaction between cognition and emotion, the connections among emotions and social norms, and the relationship between culture and emotion.

The second section will examine individual emotions. A range of social scientists have formed common conceptions of five basic emotions: fear, anger, disgust, happiness, and sadness. For our purposes here, we will concentrate on anger and fear, with some attention to disgust (and the related emotion of contempt). The second section will also cover social emotions. We will examine the emotions of resentment, indignation, and envy (and the related emotion of spite).

The third section will apply the material from the first two sections to politics. Topics will include:

  • Violence
  • Social movements
  • Voting (including analysis of recent elections)
  • The politics of taxes / redistribution
  • Emotions and international politics

Course Requirements and Grading

REQUIREMENTS PERCENTAGES

Class participation

Students are expected to attend every class and actively participate in discussion

25%
Short paper 25%
Final paper (20–25 pages)  50%

Details on the papers can be found in the Assignments section.

Readings

There is one required book which will be read during Week 6:

McClendon, Gwyneth H. Envy in Politics. Princeton University Press, 2018. ISBN: 9780691178653. [Preview with Google Books]

All other readings can be found in the Readings section.

Calendar

WEEK # TOPICS DUE DATES
Section 1: General Features and Issues
1 Introduction and General Discussion; Old and New Conceptions of Emotions  
2 Emotion and Reason; Emotion and Cognition  
Section 2: Specific Emotions
3 Anger and Fear  
4 Disgust / Contempt and Sadness / Happiness  
5 Indignation, Envy, Spite Short paper due
Section 3: Emotions and Politics
6 Emotions and the Politics of Redistribution  
7 Backlash  
8 Voting  
9 Emotions and Violence I: Ethnic and Nationalist Violence  
10 Emotions and Violence II: Vengeance and Reconciliation  
11 Emotions and International Politics I  
12 Emotions and International Politics II  
13 Wrap Up Final paper due

Course Info

Learning Resource Types

assignment_turned_in Written Assignments with Examples