Psychology and Politics: How They Are Connected

The primary mission of Cognitive Policy Works is to put the knowledge and techniques of the behavioral and social sciences into the hands of progressive activists. Clinical psychology in particular has an important role to play in enhancing the tools available to those who are interested in creating positive social change.

In From the Couch to the Culture: How Psychological Analysis Can Strengthen the Progressive Agenda, I outline six basic elements of clinical theory and practice that can be used to gain a better understanding of current events, and craft strategies to respond effectively to both challenges and opportunities.

For example:

The psychology of change: In persuading others to consider a new viewpoint or policy proposal, understanding the psychodynamics of creating change can and should be an essential tool. Once one can understand the change process from a dynamic psychological perspective, one can act to harness the inevitable drag of resistance, and minimize its impact on moving the agenda forward.

Or, consider this:

Listening for metaphor, narrative, and emotion: One of the cardinal aspects of … clinical practice is listening for the hidden content in what others are saying. … Unacknowledged narratives and feelings often drive our political and social decisions. These are important elements of public communication that progressives intent on … altering the conversation would do well to better understand.

Or, this:

Models of healthy functioning and the values of the progressive movement: One of the more compelling, and usually unarticulated, aspects of progressivism is that the values implicit in progressive thinking are ultimately the same values inherent in healthy psychological functioning. [For example, research on parenting has shown that traditionally conservative, authoritarian families often fall short when it comes to creating well-adjusted and productive children, whereas parenting that embodies progressive values of responsibility and empathy is typically quite successful in this regard.] This is yet another dimension of the political argument that progressives have yet to wield to their advantage.

If you would like to learn more about the kind of psychological insights, perspectives, and strategies that can help create attitude and behavior change; forge more effective coalitions; make more persuasive policy arguments; articulate progressive values more effectively; and build the progressive movement into an effective force for social change, I encourage you to read this article.

Best Regards,

Sue Kerbel

Cognitive Policy Works

Cognitive Policy Works specializes in providing organizations and individuals with frame analysis, policy briefs, strategic advising, and training.