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Political Psychology in International Relations


This seminar is earmarked for NECD, IP, DR, NP


This seminar introduces you to a selection of political psychological theories that can be applied to the analysis of international relations and foreign policy. The field of international relations heavily relies on structural theories, in which the role and behavior of individuals are generally considered to be a constant factor. The field of political psychology has an actor-centric perspective that offers a different perspective on the study of international relations and foreign policy.

This course offers a selection of political psychological approaches that can be used to study international relations and foreign policy, such as the studying of microfoundations of structural IR theories, and the behavioral traits, belief systems, and personality of political leaders, with the aim to develop an understanding of the role individuals play in (international) politics.


Objective 1: Students will learn to think and write about:

  • The role of actors within international relations and foreign policy

  • Political psychological approaches to study leaders

  • Microfoundations of structural IR theories

Objective 2: Students will acquire the following skills:

  • Appraise the strengths and limitations of political psychological approaches to IR and foreign policy.

  • Based on evidence and theories discussed in class, present and evaluate different scenarios on how actor-centric approaches relate to the study of IR and foreign policy

  • Learn to apply the concepts and theories to empirical cases

Method of instruction

Class discussion and student presentations

Study Material

Journal articles and book chapters.


In principle, we’ll speak English during the classes. In the case that all participants master Dutch, we might decide to switch to Dutch. Papers can be written in Dutch and in English. I recommend you to write in the language you feel most comfortable in.

Course Requirements and Assessment:

Your final grade is based on:
Participation: 20%
Short papers (750 words): 40%
Final paper/output: 40%


See 'Practical Information'


See 'MyTimetable'