I am a law and public policy scholar, and I'm currently developing a civics curriculum for YouTube. As a phd, I'm (perhaps to an unhealthy degree) concerned with being able to cite good science whenever it's available.

However, my own field of political science has rather let me down. I am trying to gather data about the impacts of citizen engagement with government in a number of ways, and one of the key mechanisms I'm looking at is contacting one's electeds ("write your congressman!" etc.).

The problem is I'm not able to find literature on electeds' response to such communications (real or self-perceived) but have noticed some studies in behavioral psych that are next door to these themes.

Lacking in a solid base of literature to begin from makes this search even harder and so...

Q: Which authors/texts are considered foundational in political psychology, or behavioral psychology that covers political contexts?

  • $\begingroup$ Re "have noticed some studies in behavioral psych that are next door to these" - can you provide examples so we have a better idea of what you have in mind? $\endgroup$
    – Arnon Weinberg
    Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 17:09
  • $\begingroup$ @ArnonWeinberg Yeah, can do. I'll put up some citations when I get home tonight. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 5, 2021 at 17:38
  • $\begingroup$ Check out Sherman et al. (2020) added in my comment below. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 1:01

1 Answer 1


Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution (Johnston, Lavine, & Federico, 2017) is a good reference that talks about how political engagement relates to psychology. Includes review of literature in this area.

More specifically, research is covered that explores the role political figures have in informing what Americans want from the government, and how individual difference in psychology contribute to this.

They find that for politically active citizens these attitudes are not driven by self-interest, but by a desire to express the traits and cultural commitments that define their identities.

This book is a great general reference that speaks to the dynamic between those that are politically engaged and elected officials.

More specific to your question, Sherman et al. (2020) examines communication in the exchange between citizens and elected officials on climate policy. Sample was drawn by

...recruiting citizen activists who lobby the US Congress for a carbon pricing policy to address climate change (Sherman et al., 2020, p.576).

In this way, 4 social psychological approaches including: affirmation, social norms, legacy and immediacy, were examined to assess how citizens think about and contact political leaders. Sherman's et al (2020) results show:

A strategy of establishing shared values and common ground (affirmation) was used most frequently overall. While, emphasizing the long-term costs and benefits of addressing climate change (legacy) was employed less frequently than affirmation and seen as less effective by activists, but it was the only strategy that was associated with perceived increases in Congressional Representatives’ support of the policy.


Johnston, C., Lavine, H., & Federico, C. (2017). Open versus Closed: Personality, Identity, and the Politics of Redistribution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/9781316341452

Sherman, D., Shteyn, M., Han, H., & Van Boven, L. (2021). The exchange between citizens and elected officials: A social psychological framework for citizen climate activists. Behavioural Public Policy, 5(4), 576-605. doi: 10.1017/bpp.2020.41

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    $\begingroup$ This resource could help with the psychology of those who contact their electeds. Does this book help with "literature on electeds' response to such communications (real or self-perceived)"? $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 6, 2021 at 13:01
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I edited my response to include a reference that more specifically zones in on the variables in question. However, the book referenced first is a good general source to learn more about the dynamic between engaged citizens and political leaders. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 7, 2021 at 0:59

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