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Political Psychology: Comparative Political Communication in the United States and China


Admission requirements

The prerequisite for this course is a 200 level course in World Politics or Human Interaction.


Political Psychology aims to understand how human nature interacts with political processes. This course introduces some of the central issues in Political Psychology, focusing on the effects of political context on political communication. We concentrate on the United States and the People’s Republic of China as examples of political processes under liberal democracy and authoritarianism, but students are welcome to bring up examples from other countries. The course does not require any previous knowledge about China or the US.

Course objectives

The course has two basic goals. The first is to introduce students to the major themes, debates, and puzzles in the study of political communication from the perspective of Political Psychology. The second is to allow students to grow familiar with some of the methodological challenges of studying political communication (through evaluation and critique of the text) and then to develop a research proposal of their own that sets out a research question and a research plan for answering that question. The course is designed around engaged and lively debate on the issues; therefore, student participation is absolutely necessary. Each student will have an opportunity to lead the discussion during the semester.


Please see the LUC website:

Mode of instruction

The course will be taught primarily in seminar format. Each student will serve as the discussion leader for one class session. Generally speaking we will begin the class with a mini-lecture from the instructor, then move to comments from the discussion leader, and then finally to an open discussion. Students are also asked to prepare one question about the readings, posted previously on the discussion board on Blackboard. Multiple questions are welcome, but not compulsory.

Assessment method

Written Assignments: Written assignments include two short literature reviews (~2000 words) on the readings in class. Students will have some degree of choice as to which session they want to write on, however, the literature review must be turned in before the class meeting. It is helpful if at least one of the weeks in which a student writes an essay he/she also serves as the discussion leader. (30%)

Each student will also turn in a research proposal (3000 words max.) that should include a research question, some discussion and critical analysis of the existing literature, and finally a research design that will enable the student to answer the question or test various competing hypotheses. The research project will be submitted in form of several smaller assignments throughout the course, which as a whole will count for 40% of the course grade.

Discussion and participation: The entire discussion and participation grade will be a composite of class participation, discussion questions, and serving as a discussion leader for one class session. The discussion leader’s remarks should not exceed 10 minutes. During the open discussion, students are asked to react to the comments and criticisms of the discussion leader. (30%)


This course will be supported by a BlackBoard site.

Reading list Recommended for purchase (but not compulsory):

  • Lieberthal, Kenneth (2004). Governing China : From Revolution through Reform.
    New York, W.W. Norton.

  • Hamilton, James (2004). All the News That’s Fit to Sell: How the Market Transforms Information into News. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press.

  • Brians, Craig Leonard, Lars Willnat, Jarol B. Manheim, and Richard C. Rich (2011). Empirical Political Analysis: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. New York: Pearson.

All other readings are available electronically or through the library.


This course is only open for LUC The Hague students.

Contact information
Information about the instructor is available at

Weekly Overview

Week 1:

  • Political Psychology and Political Communication

  • The Role of the Media in Democracies and Non-Democracies
    Week 2:

  • The Media as Political Institutions in China

  • The Media as Political Institutions in the United States
    Week 3:

  • The Comparative Method and Research Design

  • Journalism in China
    Week 4:

  • Journalism in the United States

  • Media Selection and Polarization
    Week 5:

  • Opinion Formation

  • Media Effects and Political Campaigns
    Week 6:

  • Workshop

  • Political Conversation in the US
    Week 7:

  • Political Conversation in China

  • Final Discussion
    Week 8: Reading Week

Preparation for first session

Recommended for first day of class (but not compulsory):

  • Schildkraut, Deborah J. “All Politics is Psychological: A Review of Political Psychology
    Syllabi.” Perspectives on Politics 2(4): 807-819.

  • Diamond, Larry Jay (2002). “Elections without Democracy: Thinking About Hybrid Regimes.” Journal of Democracy 13(2): 21-35.

  • Geddes, Barbara (1999). “What Do We Know About Democratization after Twenty Years?” Annual Review of Political Science 2: 115-144.