Political Psychologists will gather in beautiful Lisbon this week. Against the backdrop of uheaval in contemporary democracies, psychology and political science join forces to understand the psychological underpinnings of political phenomena such as populist attitudes or support for authoritarian policies. What is more, the current president of the International Society for Political Psychology, David Redlawsk, has made engaged scholarship one of his priorities so that ISPP takes a clear stance on current political issues (eg the attacks on academic freedom in Turkey).
However, the topic of my poster presentation is remote from daily politics. Instead, it proposes a new idea on a basic, unresolved question of political life:
Why do some people enjoy engaging with politics while other find politics boring and complicated?
I propose to borrow insights from motivation science in attempting to answer this question. In a nutshell, I argue that people like intrinsic behaviours (those that are enacted for no other reason than their inherently satisfying properties) when these behaviors satisfying universal and basic psychological needs. In this vein, when previous encounters with a domain such as politics were experienced as need-supportive individuals will develop intrinsic motivation to reengage with politics. Altogether, individual differences in intrinsic political motivation are rooted in seemingly apolitical processes of need-satisfaction and shape the frequency and depth of political engagement.
Often, citizens talk politics or watch political TV shows solely for the pleasure they derive from these activities. Yet, existing theories struggle to explain why (some) individuals engage with politics as an end in itself even if the behavior does not produce any separable instrumental value. Integrating
psychological theories from motivation studies, this study deduces a need-based model of political motivation in order to explain intrinsic political engagement. The model proposes that intrinsic political motivation has roots in the seemingly apolitical preocesses of need satisfaction which are deeply ingrained in the human psyche. Specifically, the degree of need-satisfaction experienced in ongoing and past political encounters is argued to predict both whether and how individuals engage with politics. By
manipulating need-related situational features before and during political engagement, a survey experiment will test the basic tenet that need-satisfying experiences with a domain shape a person’s domain-specific motivation, thus predicting the quantity and quality of future political engagement