Political Psychology

Recent Works

Political Mistrust

Many theorists find political distrust, which is at all-time highs in many countries, to be misplaced and conspiratorial. We present an alternative argument relating to people’s need to empower themselves in the face of governments and social institutions that do not serve the people’s needs.


Bou Zeineddine, F. & Pratto, F. (2015). Political distrust: The seed and fruit of the popular empowerment. In Prooijen, J. van & Lange, P. A. M. van (Eds), Power, politics, and paranoia. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 106-129.

Social Identity Complexity

Sonya Roccas and Marilynn Brewer proposed the considering the complexity of social identities (operationalized as how many social categories one sees as overlapping with different others) will relate to prejudice and discrimination against outgroups. We find support for these ideas regarding immigrants’ access to health care and extend them to consider how political orientation moderates them.


Prati, F., Crisp, R. J. Pratto, F. & Rubini, M. (2016). Encouraging majority support for immigrant access to health services: Multiple categorization and social identity complexity as antecedents of health equality. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 1-13.DOI: 10.1177/1368430216629814

Prati, F., Moscatelli, S., Pratto, F., & Rubini, M. (2017). Multiple and counter-stereotypic categorization of immigrants: The moderating role of political orientation on interventions to reduce prejudice. Political Psychology. doi: 10.1111/pops.12445

What is power really?

Many social psychologists define power as asymmetric interdependence or as differences in authority. I identify logical inconsistencies in these definitions and distinguish power from a number of related concepts, such as authority, social position, and offer a new theory of empowerment that focuses on those low in power as much as it does on those “wielding power” and their social cognition.


Pratto, F. (Dec. 22, 2015 on line). On power and empowerment. British Journal of Social Psychology. DOI: 0.1111/bjso.12135

A related paper examines this view of power within relations between different power strata.


Pratto, F. & Bou Zeineddine, F. (2015). Politics and the Psychology of Power:  Multi-level Dynamics in the (Im)Balances of Human Needs and Survival. J. Forgas, W. Crano, & K. Fieldler (Eds.) Sydney Symposium on Social Psychology, Sydney, Australia. (pp. 243-261).

A Univeralist Approach to Political Psychology

Much research in political psychology focuses on citizen’s support and emotions about public policy, political parties and politicians, political participation and collective action. Acknowledging the usefulness of this and other work, we suggest that political psychology can be expanded by taking a dynamic and ecological approach, and that this will make its research apply across different political systems and societies.


Bou Zeineddine, F. & Pratto, F. (February, 2017). The Need for Power and the Power of Need: Towards a universalist political psychology. Advances in Political Psychology, 38, 3-35. DOI: 10.1111/pops.12389

Objectification from a social psychological view

There is currently a heaving focus in social psychological research on self-objectification, mainly in women. In this paper we present a much more general view of what objectification is, going beyond sexual objectification of women and self-objectification.


LaCroix, J. & Pratto, F. (2015). Instrumentality and the denial of personhood: The social psychology of objectifying others. International Review of Social Psychology, 28, 183-212.

What’s wrong with the “Clash of Civilizations” Thesis

Bernard Lewis’s thesis, promoted especially by Samuel Huntington, argues that the conflict between Arabs and the West is based on a “clash of civilizations.” Our data show instead that both social identity and Arabs from Lebanon and Syria hold negative attitudes towards the west because they oppose Western hegemony.


Sidanius, J., Kteily, N., Levin, S., Pratto, F., & Obaidi, M. (2015). Support for asymmetric violence among Arab populations: The clash of cultures, social identity, or counterdominance? Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. DOI: 1368430215577224.

International Support for the Arab Uprisings

We present data from several nations about people’s willingness (or not) to engage in sympathetic collective action on behalf of Arabs, employing both social dominance theory and social identity theory.


Stewart. A. L., Pratto, F., Bou Zeineddine, F., Sweetman, J., Eicher, V., Licata, L., Morselle, D., Saab, R., Aiello, A., Chryssochoou, X., Cichocka, A., Cidam, A., Foels, R., Giguère, B., Li, L., Prati, F., & van Stekelenburg, J. (2015). International Support for the Arab Uprisings: Understanding Sympathetic Collective Action Using Theories of Social Dominance and Social Identity. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Published online before print January 19, 2015, doi: 10.1177/1368430214558310.

Political Correctness and Language Activism

What language to describe groups is acceptable to use is constantly in flux. Some people pay attention and inform others when politically incorrect
language is used thereby pushing language towards the current standard of political correctness. We are interested in studying how
they became language activists, how their identification with the groups under threat influences their activism, and their experience of the everyday activism of confronting others.


Strauts, E. & Blanton, H. (2015). Personality & Individual Differences, 80, 32-40. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.02.012

Physiological Stress and Dominance Responses to Political Television News

Engagement in a political argument involves the mind and body: it is a psychological and physiological experience. We examined the hypothesis that watching ideological television is not a passive act; the viewer is brought into a political competition that is controlled by the program host. This competition is hierarchical; the host places their allies on top and denigrates the other side. We compare this situation to the literature on social defeat stress and dominance responses. This study uses the hormones cortisol and testosterone to assess stress and dominance, but other measures are being developed.


Blanton, H., Strauts, E. & Perez, M. (2012). Partisan Identification as a Predictor of Cortisol Response to Election News, Political Communication, 29:4, 447-460, DOI:

Download example of two matched video clips used in the study

What is Social Change?

Often researchers don’t specify what they mean by “social change.” We identify different kinds of social changes and what goals relate to the different types of social change.


Sweetman, J., Leach, C. W., Spears, R., Pratto, F. & Saab, R. I have a dream: A typology of change goals. (2013). Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 1, 293-320.

Projects Under Development

The Desire to Emigrate

With this research study, we examined politically-motivated desire to emigrate in 8 developing nations. So far, we are finding that far from indulging in system justification,  it is disempowered people who are most critical of their domestic political systems who are most desirous of emigration, and the most constrained from doing so.

Bou Zeineddine, F., Pratto, F., Stewart, A.L., Foels, R., Aiello, A., Cidam,  A., Eicher, V., Licata, L., Li, L., Meyers, I.,  Morselli, D., Petrovic, N., Prati, F., Saab R., Sweetman, J. (2012) Getting engaged instead of getting out: Restricting migration, system condemnation, and political engagement. Paper presented on the symposium, Migrants and migration, D. Garbin (Chair). Annual conference on Processes Influencing Democratic Ownership and Participation conference in Surrey, England.

The Visceral Experience of Political Violence

In experimental research funded by the APA, we ask how group identification and the sensory experience of political violence interact to alter individuals’ empathic responding and attributions for violence. In our Counter-Dominance International surveys, we also have evidence for a predicted contrast between feelings of societal insecurity and empathy in how they effect trauma symptoms for people in relatively stable versus relatively unstable countries.

Counter-Dominance International

Political Psychology Picture

This 6-year project has given us the wonderful opportunity to collaborate with scholars in over 40 countries, looking for the answer to many questions. Is people’s near-consensual rejection of oppression in the abstract psychologically distinct from counter-dominance, the term we use for people’s admiration and support of active resistance against oppression? We are looking to learn more about that underdog-loving crowd. For example, will counter-dominance vary across groups within nations and across nations systematically by the power positions of those groups? How will counter-dominance affect attitudes towards different groups and policies? What are the antecedents of counter-dominance, should it indeed be distinct from social dominance orientation?

In particular, recent research in our lab has explored the psychology of people who are low on social dominance orientation (e.g., socially inclusive).

The Socially Inclusive Psychology of People Low on Social Dominance Orientation

inclusion hands togetherBecause of the traditional focus on dominance and oppression, very little research has explored the psychology of people who do not exhibit prejudice or who desire group-based equality. In a series of studies, we argue that social inclusion is a defining feature of people low on social dominance orientation. To test this prediction, we developed a short social dominance orientation scale that includes a socially inclusive item and have found extensive support for its construct and criterion-related validity. Multiple indicators of social inclusion (e.g., empathy, hierarchy-attenuating policy support, inclusive meanings ascribed to religious practices, and pictorial diagrams of socially inclusive group structure) are endemic to people low on social dominance orientation.