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Encyclopedia Explores How Human Behavior Affects Global Politics

September 6, 2017 – A new encyclopedia edited by Georgetown professor Fathali Moghaddam takes a close look at the psychology of political decision-making by leaders of democracies as well as dictators around the world.

The SAGE Encyclopedia of Political Behavior (SAGE Publishing, 2017) is a two-volume reference book that compiles articles from experts in political science, psychology, sociology, anthropology and communications.

Moghaddam says the new book paints a comprehensive picture of how human behavior affects politics across the world. 

Politics as Psychology

“For me, all politics is psychology,” the professor explains. “But this differs from a lot of political science, in that we’re also concerned with implicit processes, irrationality and decision-making that the individual is not aware of.”

Each article in the Encyclopedia features new content from leading voices on each subject it covers – from charisma to dictatorship, political attitudes to political ideology.

"Political behavior can be defined very broadly,” Moghaddam said. “It can be any behavior based in political values or any behavior that influences the distribution of resources. It encompasses individual and collective processes. If you think about all that, it’s a very broad span.”

Lens of Human Behavior

Moghaddam hopes examining politics through the lens of human behavior will help dispel some common misconceptions – starting with the ideas that an individual can be “apolitical” and that all political decisions are rational.

“Firstly, politics is for everyone," he says. "What foods we choose to eat, what cars we choose to drive, what charities and causes we support – all these things are political.”

“Secondly, politics is not always rational" he adds. "We often fail to recognize and act on our collective or individual interests accurately.”

Accessible Information

Moghaddam edited the book with some help from Georgetown students. He believes the final product is accessible to most people who might come across it in a public library or via the Internet.

“We have political problems that we have to solve, and better information and education is a big part of the solution,” Moghaddam says. “We need to help people to think about political issues more deeply, more critically.”

Moghaddam sees a behavioral approach to politics as more relevant than ever, as elections and movements in governments across the world have proven in recent years that the arc of history is not a rational march toward liberal democracy.

The Steps Backward

“We raise questions about times we’ve gone backwards, including the last 10 years,” Moghaddam says. “That’s a theme that goes through a lot of the sections.”

The scholar believes the Encyclopedia’s global perspective, interdisciplinary approach and service-based goals make it an ideal project to be affiliated with Georgetown.

“This is a very Georgetown project – it fits in with our mission,” Moghaddam says, “and that’s a big part of why I took it on.”