The Biology of Political Behavior
- Kevin B. Smith - University of Nebraska - Lincoln, USA
- John Hibbing - University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA
Does testable, replicable empirical evidence exist to support the notion that biology can help explain political behavior? The past practice of political science has been to ignore the growing biological knowledge base. Perhaps because mass-scale politics seem so cerebral and rational, scholars of politics are prone to conclude that it somehow transcends biology. Not true.
This fascinating issue of The ANNALS draws on the recent advancements in biological insights and applies them to political science. Pulling from a range of topics – including the role of personality traits in political decisions; personal temperament and social behavior; and how neuroendocrine mechanisms (stress-coping strategies) and social dominance influence leadership potential – this issue calls for the cooperation between political scientists and life scientists.
Other social sciences merge biological research with their studies. In psychology, research has connected personal traits (such as risk-taking, depression, extroversion) to neurotransmitter levels and genetics. Evolutionary psychology has demonstrated that universal human tendencies are products of evolutionary pressures. In economics, behavioral economics and neuroeconimcs draw heavily from biological concepts. And in sociology, long-established research tradition has attempted to connect neurotransmitters and hormones to social behavior.
Now is the time for political science to embrace natural science. Biology is a stronger force than ever, interacting with human culture in complex ways. By leveraging that knowledge, political science is positioned to make giant strides forward in new avenues of research.
Most of the compelling articles included in the collection rely on original and empirical findings. Students and researchers will find this special issue a unique and inspiring perspective on applying the remarkable techniques developed in neuroscience, experimental economics, computer simulations, psychophysiology, behavioral genetics, and molecular biology to future political science research projects.