frequently asked questions
We’ll answer your unanswered questions.
“Political movements derive their vitality from the displacement of private affects onto public objects.”
– Harold Lasswell
about political psychology
What is political psychology?
Why is political psychology important?
How is political psychology different from political science?
Is political psychology the same thing as big data?
What makes you a credible authority on political psychology?
How can political psychology help me?
What is political management?
What is generational theory?
What makes your way of looking at ideology better?
Why haven’t I heard about any of this before?
about first person politics
What exactly is it that you do?
How are you different from other political consultants?
Do you work with liberals or conservatives, Democrats or Republicans?
Do you conduct original research?
How did you get started doing this?
Why don’t you become a professor?
Do you offer counseling or psychiatric services?
How do you structure pricing?
Where is your office?
Are you available for travel outside of DC?
Are you hiring?
about this site
about political psychology
Political psychology is the science what motivates and influences people interested in power and social change. It looks at politics, political leaders, and political behavior from a psychological perspective. At its best, political psychology uses a diversity of theoretical and practical approaches to help us understand public affairs.
Politics is about people. So if you want to win power, change the world, and govern successfully, you have to understand what makes people tick. That’s why the founders of our nation spent so much time debating human nature before they designed our government. They realized that for any political project to succeed, it has to be grounded in an honest assessment of how people actually think and behave around power. But a lot has changed since the 18th Century. The world isn’t what it used to be, and neither is our understanding of human nature. Political psychology has helped us see what’s really driving human behavior and given us powerful new tools for influencing it.
“Our political institutions and practices reflect our collective self-understanding. When that changes dramatically, so should our politics.”
– George Lakoff
Political science is focused on surfaces. It deals with attitudes, behaviors, structures, and processes we can all see and verify. Political psychology recognizes that what happens at the surface is only a small part of the story. Some of political psychology’s interests are easy for anyone to observe and experience directly, but most of them operate through unconscious processes invisible to the naked eye. We call these unconscious processes the Layers of Influence and you can read more about them here.
No. Political psychology studies human political behavior using controlled experiments, field research, empirical observations, and careful analysis. Big data simply looks for statistical correlations in data sets too large for conventional computing systems to handle. In fact, many of the most significant findings from big data confirm what psychologists have been saying for decades. We think big data has a role to play in understanding human behavior, but it requires contextualization within in larger analytic framework — something political psychology is extremely well suited to provide. For more on the differences between political psychology and big data, see here.
We bring over a decade of political experience, as well as masters degrees in both political psychology and political management from George Washington University. You can read about the rest of our credentials here.
The answer is different for every client, but political psychology has something for nearly everyone. For example, an opposition research firm might benefit from our psychological profiling work. Members of Congress might need help with public speaking or a seminar on generations in Congress. If you conduct polls as part of your work, the psychological research tools we offer will be a big help. If you aren’t sure how we can help you or have needs that aren’t addressed on our website, just contact us for a free consultation.
Political management is applied politics. It’s study of how to bring about political and social change in the real world. Anyone who works in political consulting, professional politics, advocacy, or organizing is engaged in some kind of political management — even if they’ve never received formal academic training.
It’s a model developed by William Strauss and Neil Howe showing how history is driven by generational cycles. The theory explains how and when generations are formed, and demonstrates how the relationships between generations drive history, politics, and culture. It is an amazingly powerful tool because we can use it to understand why certain changes happened when they did — and anticipate both short term and long term trends in politics and society. We’ve been studying generational theory and using it for more than a decade, and we would love to share it with you.
Most people in politics treat ideology as a set of labels or beliefs. We think the evidence shows ideology is actually a set of motivations that have deep roots in personality and socialization. Our way of describing and measuring ideology is better because it connects the dots between what people believe and do, the justifications they give for their beliefs and actions, what’s really motivating them, and how those motivations got there in the first place. When one theory has so much explanatory power — and works across a wide range of issues, eras, and political systems — it’s probably on the right track. We didn’t invent it, but we know a good thing when we see it. You can read more about it on our blog.
It’s an accident of history that political psychology never gained the institutional coherence and confidence necessary to generate interest from our nation’s leaders or the general public. Political science rose to prominence during the mid 20th Century because it validated the rationalist, materialist, and structuralist biases of that age. Recent developments in the real world and inside the halls of academia have stimulated a renewed interest in the role of emotion, language, ideology, and personality in politics. Political psychology has a great deal to say about these fascinating subjects, and decades of research to back up its findings. First Person Politics will bring you the best of what this field has to offer.
“Science is the tool of the Western mind. It obscures our insight only when it claims that the understanding it conveys is the only kind there is.”
– C.G. Jung
about first person politics
We specialize in political psychology, which in itself makes us unique. But we balance this perspective with an understanding of the day-to-day realities of politics, advocacy, and governing. When working with clients, we often help them in ways neither of us can fully anticipate. That’s because we often see things that others don’t, and find solutions others miss thanks to our unique way of looking at the world.
“Politics is the process by which the irrational bases of society are brought out into the open.”
– Harold Lasswell
We will work with anyone who is committed to positive social and political change.
It is astonishing how much political psychology already knows about how to motivate and influence people. At First Person Politics, we survey the existing academic literature to find the key insights and methods you need to achieve your goals. We are extensively trained in experimental and survey methods, but do not conduct laboratory experiments, primary field research, polls, or focus groups ourselves. However, we would be happy to team up with your strategic partners to help you strengthen your research with tools and techniques from political psychology.
We founded First Person Politics because there was no home in the world for applied political psychology. So we decided to build that home ourselves. We’ve been studying and thinking about political psychology for a long time, and we wanted to help our friends and allies make real progress and strategic advances based on what we’ve learned. We’ve written a series of biographical blog posts on our blog called Properly Introduced which tell the long version of the story of how we got started.
We love teaching, and would love to teach you about political psychology. But we believe the world’s problems — especially our nation’s political problems — will only be solved by engaging with them directly. Right now the world doesn’t need more academics. It needs people who can take what political psychology has already learned and translate it into concrete actions that will make a difference. That’s our specialty.
No. But we know from extensive study and firsthand experience that mental health issues have extremely unpleasant consequences when left unaddressed, especially when they affect people in public life. If you need psychiatric help, we want you to know that you have our full support and encouragement to seek help regardless of your party, ideology, or affiliations.
That said, we are well-versed in a number of personality models like the Myers-Briggs, the Enneagram, and the Big-Five (to name a few) that we can teach you and your compatriots. These models should be treated as personal and organizational empowerment tools. They are NOT substitutes for professional psychiatric help.
“Political crises are complicated by the concurrent reactivation of specific primitive motives which were organized in the early experience of the individuals concerned.”
– Harold Lasswell
Most services are priced on an individual basis or at an hourly rate depending on the needs of the client.
We’re located in Washington DC’s Logan Circle neighborhood. All our contact information can be found here.
Yes, so long as you cover airfare, hotel, and any other transportation needs. If we already have plans to be in your metropolitan area, we would be delighted to visit you in person if our travel plans allow. We travel several times a year to visit relatives in Dallas and Boston.
Please visit our jobs page to see the list of our current openings for both salaried positions and internships. We’re nearly always looking for fresh new voices with a passion for political psychology interested in contributing to our blog. To apply, just follow the instructions in the job description.
about this site
Free association is a method used in psychoanalytic therapy in which the patient talks about whatever comes to mind, without censoring any thoughts or feelings. The goal of free association isn’t to unearth specific memories or discover answers to specific problems, but to give both the patient and the therapist greater insight into reality as experienced by the patient. Political blogging is, in its own way, a kind of free associating — though its focus is generally on a community instead of an individual person. Free Associations is also a play on words. We’re trying to help you the reader connect the dots — and form lasting mental associations — between psychology and politics. And we’re doing it for free.
Yes, please do. But our blog is our home, and you are a guest in it. We expect all commenters to behave that way. You are welcome to agree or disagree, but you are expected to do so respectfully and civilly — and to avoid inappropriate language. If you cannot conduct yourself according to our standards of acceptable behavior, we will happily ban you. It’s a big Internet out there! If you don’t like the way we do things here or find our content intolerable, freedom is never more than a click away.