ELTE Társadalomtudományi Kar

Szociálpszichológiai Tanszék


Political Psychology and Communication


György Csepeli

Time: Tuesday, 2.00-3.30 pm.

Room: 210 North

Course Description

Rather than taking the classic approach to political influence flowing from an active sender to a relatively passive mass of receivers  the lessons of this course treat political communication as an interactive process of creating meaning. Moreover, the course will discuss examples that show how the participants of political communication are fueled by a mix of rationality and irrationality tormented by the the interplay of credulity and doubt, truth and deceit, intention and inadvertense.


Student should attend classes. Time to time they will be expected to write in-class tests. Grades will be based on the results of in-class test as well as ont he evaluation of the final essay to be written by the day of the exam.


IX. 14

Making Sense of Politics: Endowing Political Meanings and Constructing Political Messages

Communication is central to the study of political affairs connected to power and governing. Political power lies with those who have power over meanings and rule public discourse.  This lecture will focus on questions of discourse, discussing the processes of persuasion, message construction and interpretation of meaning. All participants in the political game are viewed as actively engaged in the communication process.


Directions in the Research on the Psychology of Political Communication in Democratic Societies

Four directions will be presented: (1) the making of political images, (2) formation of impressions as a result of political communication, (3) political decision making influenced by messages, (4) psychological manipulation .


The case of Riefenstahl’s Movie (Der Sieg des Glaubens, 1934)

X. 05

Political Communication in Totalitarian Societies

Totalitarian societies make impossible the competition between memes of any content transforming practically everything into the realm of political means. Deep seated psychological needs, however, are satisfied by skillful communication, as we have seen int he film of Riefenstahl. This makes extremely effective the totalitarian way of political communication that frm the point of view of democratic society seems to be primitive and repetitive.


Cognitive and Affective Dimensions of Political Conceptualization

How individual actors construct their political meanings by framing political issues along the dimensions of frame and tone?  Frame is conceived as cognitive structure fueled by information of the object considered. Tone is primarily affective by nature, representing emotions associated with the object. Rather simple but useful model.


Lies in Political Communication

Benefits and costs of lying in politics will be investigated. Macchiavell and Jervis will have a dialogue.

XI. 02

Essentials of Political Psychology

Political psychology cannot limit itself to tracing the effects of beliefs and desires on individual actions and thereby on social processes. It has also to concentrate on the mechanisms by which desires and beliefs are formed. Elster’s views on Veyne, Zinoviev, and Tocquevill will be discussed in the context of political psychology.

XI. 09

The Psychology of Mass-Mediated Publics

Puvlic opinion in the political news is function of the interest structure of journalists and elites. The publics enable these diverse actors to judge which news should be voiced and which once should be silenced. These patterns of voiced vs.silenced opinions may hold the key to the psychology of publics-governments relations in different policy arenas (foreign policy, macroeconomic trevónds, grass groot voices, etc.)

XI. 16

Media Discourse as a Framing Resource

People in making sense of political issues combine experiental and everyday knowledge with media discourse. The latter can have a paromount effect on the perception of issues distant from everyday world such as the issue of affirmative action, nuclear power, gay officers in the army etc.

XI. 23


Government coverage of political events results from a complex interaction between and an anticipation of reactions by journalists and politicians. The notion of newsworthiness challenges the traditonal unidirectional flow model of communication that emphasizes political effects on the press.

XI. 30

Case Study: The 1990 Wellstone-Boschwitz Senate Race in Minnesota

In this race an unknown political science professor defeated the well financed Republican incumbent in 1990 in Minnesota. The case study will demonstrate how interactive can be the dynamic of the electorial campaign..

XII. 07

Constructing Public Opinion

Focus group results will be shown to demonstrate how citizens construct their views. The new media is helping people to getting them into dynamic exchange of views.

XII. 14


According to Goffman manipulation can be defined as the use of signals to elicit desired images by undermining the observer’s assumption that the behavior which is the index either cannot be or is not being consciouséy controlled by the actor to give an impression the actor wants the observer to have. Consequently, an actor who can manipulate an index have a great influence ont he other’s image since the observer believes he is getting information untainted by deception.

Internet resource in Hungarian:



Elster, J. 1993. Political Psychology. Cambridge: Cambrige University Press.

Grigler, A.N. 1998. The Psychology of Political Communication. Ann Arbor: The University o Michigan Press.

Jervis, R. 1989. The Logic of Image in International Relations. New York:Columbia University Press.

Machiavelli, N. The Prince.