Martha Cottam's Introduction to Political Psychology: Analysis

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Opinion Paper
In Introduction to Political Psychology, Martha Cottam uses scientific methodology and procedures to unravel the mental reasoning behind social and domestic public policies. As we have journeyed through the first weeks of Govt 319, we have experienced the themes in Cottam in our day-to-day group exercises, class activities and lectures. In particular, we have studied the imposing influence of authoritarian rule on personalities. In “the Wave” we saw a group of high school students empowered through fascism/authoritarian rule, mobilized by a larger ideal, take power. In the Stanford Prison Experiment we saw how authoritarian power corrupts, how even the most innocent of people can be driven to do horrendous acts. Lastly, the “Shipwreck exercise” we examined the complexities of group dynamics and roles, how an authority figures can persuade individuals from otherwise logical choices, but also examines how individuals keen to compromise in groups. In each of these activities we experience, the pages of Cottam and the psychological complexities of politics relevantly in play.

In “the Wave” teacher Rainer Wenger is able to mobilize his students into a small authoritarian regime. “Herr Wenger” himself loses sight of reality and becomes obsessed with his absolute power over the students. Throughout the movie we see the students adopt fascist authoritarian behaviors and procedures. Ironically while there are no more social insecurities between the members of “the Wave” united by their label, however they neglect those not within the group. Moreover, while the students argued in the beginning that Germany could never undergo another fascist government, they themselves unconsciously evolve into a fascist regime by the end of the movie. Themes in the movie appear regularly in Cottam, using Altemeyer as reference:

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“Psychologically, right wing authoritarianism is submission to perceived authorities, particularly those in the establishment or...
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