TEACHING (SPRING 2022)

POL 3018H: THESIS PREPARATION AND POLITICAL SCIENCE INQUIRY

Spring 2022

In this course, students will prepare to write their senior theses in political science. The senior thesis is difficult, even for the best students. In most political science classes, we focus on mastering knowledge developed by others; in the senior thesis, students must make their own original contribution to the store of human knowledge. The skills required to conduct and write about original research are different than those required to be a good student in other classes. This course helps students develop these skills. Students will enter with a few ideas for topics about which they might like to write their theses. They will leave the class with a clear and tractable research question, a literature review that describes how this question fits in with the existing scholarly literature, and a research design that will enable them to answer the question. Along the way, they will advance their understanding of what constitutes political science research and how to conduct political science research.

POL 3766: POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY OF MASS BEHAVIOR

Spring 2022

How do people develop their political opinions? What makes people vote the way that they do? Why do some people love, and others loathe, Donald Trump? Understanding how ordinary citizens engage with the political sphere is essential to understanding how politics work. This course applies a psychological approach to understanding how average people – members of the mass public – think about politics, make political decisions, and decide how (and whether) to take political actions. We will explore arguments about the role that ideology, biological and evolutionary factors, personality, identity and partisanship, racial attitudes, and political discussion play in shaping the opinions and behavior of members of the mass public. In addition, this class introduces students to the methodology of political psychology and how political psychologists approach questions and attempt to understand the political world.

 

TEACHING (PAST SEMESTERS)

POL 1001: AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IN A CHANGING WORLD

Why doesn't Congress seem to work? Why do we let nine unelected judges decide which laws are unconstitutional and which ones are not? How could anyone have voted for <insert “Joe Biden” or “Donald Trump” here>? This course will introduce students to politics in the United States, addressing these and many more questions about how the American political system works. During the course, we will grapple with a range of topics. We will start with a discussion of foundational concepts about democracy, power, and why governments exist in the first place, along with a discussion of the early political history of the United States and the Constitution that this history produced. We will move on to examining the role of the individual citizen in American democracy, a field of study commonly referred to as Political Behavior. We will investigate how citizens think about politics, how they learn about the political system, and ultimately when and how they get involved in the political process. Finally, we will examine the structure and institutions of American Politics, and how they produce the policies that govern us all.

POL 1903: FRESHMAN SEMINAR - DELIBERATION IN THE 2016 ELECTION

What if the most important part of democracy isn’t voting, but talking before the vote is taken? That’s the claim of deliberative theories of democracy, which argue that political decisions are only legitimate if they are preceded by a fair deliberation among those affected. But what kind of talk is good for democracy? And are average citizens capable of productive conversation, especially in this age of political polarization? We’ll explore these questions through a range of academic research from political science, psychology, and communications.


But we won’t just seek answers from academic sources – we’ll take a hands-on approach by hosting the 2016 Minnesota Election Forum, a deliberative public forum where average citizens will discuss the presidential election. Planning and hosting the forum will be the centerpiece of the course; alongside reading and discussing academic papers, we will plan how to host a productive conversation between among ordinary citizens. We’ll put everything we’ve learned into action the weekend before the election, when we’ll help a diverse group of voters have a different kind of conversation about the Presidential Election.

POL 3767: POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY OF ELITE BEHAVIOR

Why do some countries cooperate with each other while others go to war? How do the personalities of leaders affect how they behave in office? How to groups of policymakers work together? In this class we will address questions like these by exploring the psychology of political elites, those members of society who wield outsized influence over political decisions. This outsized influence means that understanding how elites think is particularly important. It is also unusually difficult, leading some to argue that political psychology can play little role in understanding elite decision-making.

POL 8160: CAUSAL INFERENCE AND EXPERIMENTAL METHODS

Why are experiments useful for making causal inferences about the political world? This course will explore the statistical basis for randomized experiments and provide students a deeper understanding of how this affects experimental design and the interpretation of results from experiments. We will start by introducing the counterfactual approach to thinking about causality and the potential outcomes framework that formalizes this approach. We will then use this framework to describe the unique statistical properties of experiments and the implications of these properties for the design of experiments. We then will build on this framework to discuss issues related to choosing samples and designing experimental treatments. The class will end with a discussion of replication, pre-registration, and the central importance of statistical power in the design of experiments.

POL 8360: SMALL GROUP PROCESSES AND DEMOCRATIC DELIBERATION

The “deliberative turn” in democratic theory has inspired a range of new empirical research. This work asks how deliberative existing democratic systems are and what can be done to make them more so. Drawing on work in political science, communications, and psychology, we will examine this new literature, exploring such questions as: How can we measure the quality of deliberation? Can conversation about politics, whether in small groups, in the media, or in everyday conversation, meet the standards of deliberative theory? What can empirical research tell us about how to improve the quality of deliberation? 

We will start by briefly reviewing the normative literature inspired by the “deliberative turn.” We will continue with the main topic of the course: exploring literatures on small group processes and what lessons this research can teach us about the feasibility of creating deliberation in institutions like deliberative polls, citizen juries, and other “mini-publics.” Finally, we will examine research on everyday political conversation among citizens, asking what such conversation looks like and whether it can play a role in a deliberative political system. 

POL 8307: PROSEMINAR IN POLITICAL PSYCHOLOGY

The proseminar in Political Psychology is the core of the Political Psychology graduate minor. The year, the course will explore the causes and consequences of the rapidly shifting media environment. While students only take this course once, we expect all students enrolled in the minor to attend regularly.