Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL2086: Strategy and Psychology in Foreign Policy

This module descriptor refers to the 2017/8 academic year.


NQF Level5
Credits15 ECTS Value7.5
Term(s) and duration

This module will run during term 2 (11 weeks)

Academic staff

Dr Catarina Thomson (Convenor)





Available via distance learning


This module will introduce you to two different approaches to understanding foreign policy. First you will learn the role psychological factors such as emotions, morality, and deciding under pressure play in foreign policy and international relations. You will also be exposed to key decision-making models. This module will then introduce you to rational choice theory and how it can be applied to understand international problems and conflicts.

This module will provide you with an entry-level introduction to psychological approaches to foreign policy and rational choice theory. Understanding the psychological underpinnings of foreign policy decision-making and international relations will help make sense of political outcomes that might otherwise be difficult to explain. We will also learn the basics concepts of game theory, and learn to calculate simple expected utility calculations. We will then apply rational choice theory to identify the motivations of different international actors and make sense of international behaviour that might otherwise seem ‘irrational.’ Unfortunately, scholars of international relations often fail to integrate psychological and rational choice approaches: here we will see how these analytical tools can complement each other. Aspects of this course are quantitatively orientated. There are no quantitative prerequisites (the instructor will give all relevant training to perform well in the course, but you should be prepared to engage with quantitative work).

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