University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Neuropolitics (PLIT10101)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe availability of sophisticated neuroimaging tools, along with rapidly advancing understandings of the functioning of the brain, presents new opportunities and challenges for social scientists. This course introduces honours students to the concept of neuropolitics and to the tools and approaches from the cognitive neurosciences that may have important applications in theory and in policy practice. Participants will explore the potential and the perils of the incorporation of insights from the cognitive neurosciences into the study of social and political attitudes and behaviours.
Course description Drawing on literatures from a variety of disciplines including political science, economics, psychology and the cognitive neurosciences, participants will be introduced to the subject of neuropolitics and its tools and will be encouraged to critically assess its potential contribution to the social sciences. How might understanding the underlying neural mechanisms of the decision process, or of inter-group behaviour, shed new light on existing theoretical frameworks or help to shape policy practice? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different methods and approaches? What are the limitations of a neuropolitics approach? What ethical considerations need to be taken into account?

This class will entail a total of 20 contact hours, delivered in 10 x 2 hour sessions. Students will undertake further directed learning in the form of participation in a journal club, throughout the teaching period, and will receive formative feedback on their participation in this task.

The students will first be introduced to ongoing debates about the relationship between the brain, biology and behaviour; given an introduction to basic functional neuroanatomy and to the range of tools and approaches with potential for application in a neuropolitical study. The class will then proceed to critically examine the strengths and weaknesses of a neuropolitical approach with respect to a series of cases: for example, decision-making; voting behaviour; identity and group-relations; and public policy. A session on neuroethics will address the potential ethical issues that arise in neuropolitical studies.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements 4th Year Students Only.
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least 4 Politics/International Relations courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). We will only consider University/College level courses.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Section for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a critical understanding of the contribution of a neuropolitical approach to the social sciences
  2. Develop a basic understanding of functional neuroanatomy and the relevance of this knowledge for social scientists
  3. Develop a critical understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of key methods and tools applied in neuropolitical research
  4. Develop analytical skills and ability to lead and contribute to group learning in a timely and effective manner.
  5. Develop the ability to identify a research puzzle, to develop an appropriate and ethical experimental approach to the problem identified and to formulate research hypotheses.
Reading List
Lieberman, M.D., Schreiber, D. & Ochsner, K.N. (2003). Is Political Cognition Like Riding a Bicycle? How Cognitive Neuroscience Can Inform Research on Political Thinking. Political Psychology,. 24(4), 681-704.

McDermott, R. (2004). The Feeling of Rationality: The Meaning of Neuroscientific Advances for Political Science. Perspectives on Politics, 2(04), p.691-706.

McDermott, R. (2009). Mutual Interests: The Case for Increasing Dialogue between Political Science and Neuroscience. Political Research Quarterly, 62(3), 571-583

Hatemi, P. K., & McDermott, R. (2012). The Political Psychology of Biology, Genetics, and Behavior. Political Psychology. 33(3), 307-312.

Schreiber, D., & Iacoboni, M. (2012). Huxtables on the Brain: An fMRI Study of Race and Norm Violation. Political Psychology. 33(3), 313-330.

Theodoridis, A. G., & Nelson, A. J. (2012). Of BOLD Claims and Excessive Fears: A Call for Caution and Patience Regarding Political Neuroscience. Political Psychology, 33(1), 27-43.

Hibbing, J. R. (2013). Ten Misconceptions Concerning Neurobiology and Politics. Perspectives on Politics. 11(02), 475-489

Jost, J. T., Nam, H. H., Amodio, D. M., & Van Bavel, J. J. (2014). Political neuroscience: The beginning of a beautiful friendship. Political Psychology, 35(SUPPL.1), 3-42.

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills - be independent learners who take responsibility for their own learning and are committed to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
- be able to sustain intellectual interest by remaining receptive to both new and old ideas, methods, and ways of thinking;
- be able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
- be able to use collaboration and debate effectively to test, modify and strengthen their own views
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserProf Laura Cram
Tel: (0131 6)51 5571
Course secretaryMr Daniel Jackson
Tel: (0131 6)50 3932
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information