Editorial - Psychological Dimensions of International Relations


By Gülseren Kozak-Işık, sociologist, psychologist, and politician (a former member of the Turkish National Assembly). Dr. Kozak-Işık works on organizational psychology/sociology, political psychology, and emotions. Currently, she is a professor at Sciences Po and teaches "Application of Psychological Insights into International Relations and Diplomacy" at the Paris School of International Relations.


This text is the editorial of the Revue Diplomatique n°18 - Special issue - of the Institute for Applied Geopolitical Studies, available for order here

How to cite this publication

Gülseren Kozak-Işık, "Psychological Dimensions of International Relations" (ed.) in Revue Diplomatique n°18, 2, Exploring the Central Role of Psychology in International Relations, Paris, July 2022

The idea of this special collection was born when Romain and I first came together in September 2021 to discuss my upcoming talk on Psychology of International Relations at the Institut d'études de géopolitique appliquée. Romain has a keen interest in psychology and asked many questions about the graduate course I teach at the Sciences Po Paris School of International Relations (PSIA), "Application of Psychological Insights into International Relations and Diplomacy". I mentioned to Romain that the students submitted an impressive array of papers covering a wide range of international issues from various psychological perspectives and told him of my wish to see these published on a platform. He quickly expressed his interest in undertaking such a project. After further discussions among ourselves and with the current and former students of the class, Romain and I agreed that a special issue of the Revue Diplomatique would be a suitable venue to make these papers available to the larger community. In line with the earlier work of the institute, the edited collection aimed to benefit both the practicing diplomats and scholars of international relations alike.

Selecting the papers among many qualified ones proved to be a hard task. The designated authors adapted their papers to fit into the current format and diligently made every deadline. Meanwhile, Romain recruited other names who work/write on the intersection of international relations and psychology and conducted the interviews included in this special issue. We thank all the contributors for making this special issue possible. We believe that this collection makes a significant contribution to the long neglected and recently revitalizing the field of psychology of international relations.

The pieces included in this collection successfully demonstrate how incorporating the theories and practical application of psychology into international relations can benefit the discipline and improve our ability to understand, successfully manage, and resolve international issues. To achieve this purpose, the authors deeply engaged with the scholarship in cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, emotions and emotional intelligence, psychology of leadership, neuropsychology, psychology of terrorism, psychology of negotiations, conflict resolution and mediation, and discursive psychology, etc. and applied the insights they gain from it to various international issues, such as the European immigration crises, the nuclear deal agreement between Iran and the US, the Korean War, negotiations between Arab countries and Israel, Russia's Meddling in the US elections, the dispute between France and ex-colonies regarding cultural artifacts etc. to improve our understandings of these international issues or to offer alternative solutions.

The collection starts with Patrick LEMOINE's interview that directs the attention to the fact that psychology is at the core of every social mechanism, including the relationship between leaders and their followers. Patrick also underlines the correlations between rising contemporary psychological disorders and recent political and social developments. This piece is followed by Jean- François FIORINA's interview on the leadership and management style of leaders and the social, cultural, and psychological roots of these choices. According to Jean-Francois, as the ideological aspect takes over in populist leaders' decision-making process, the rational economic part vanishes with significant implications on international relations. Jean-Luc HEES, in his interview, responds to the questions on his research on the psychology of dictators and the characteristics of their thinking style. Ester MOLINAROLI and Chiara LONOCE continue to explore the psychology of leadership theme in different contexts. Ester examines psychobehavioral patterns in President Trump's dealing with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), while Chiara writes on the significance of leaders' personality and cognitive structures in shaping international events by focusing on Matteo Salvini and the management of the Mediterranean Migration Crises in Italy.

Juan Pablo HERZBERG BARREDA provides a psycho-rhetorical analysis of Fidel Castro's famous speech "History Will Absolve Me", with the intent of providing diplomats with the examples of how to use rhetoric and psychology for better articulating a defense, gaining the upper hand in negotiations, or forming the groundwork for a successful mediation process among parties to a violent conflict. Juan Pablo demonstrates psycho-rhetorical strategies Castro employed, such as invoking different identities, figure ground reversals, and conceptual juxtaposition to attack his opponent's ideology while carefully differentiating individuals -even soldiers who are fighting for the government against communist rebels- from the ideological enemy; a tactic which makes it possible for these people to later identify with and join the revolutionary forces. The article also briefly touches on some of the key issues in the psychology of leadership.

In the following paper, Raphael SOLULIER shifts the focus on populism and examines the recent electoral success of populist leaders from a neuroscience perspective, and what it means for global political stability. For that purpose, he also writes about how manipulative technologies exploit the growing sense of mistrust among citizens for political elites during the election processes in a way to benefit of populist movements. Faye LAMRANI provides another angle on the electoral success of populist leaders and technology within the context of Russian Meddling in the 2016 US election. Faye pays a particular attention to the emotional setting the elections had taken place. The paper also discusses the implications of voter polarization and ediplomacy on the U.S. democracy and elections while at the same time providing an analysis of Trump's personality and leadership profile. Aude GREGORY-BILLET's article, on the other hand, focuses on the role emotions play in the construction of European project. For this purpose, she studies how and why emotions are capitalized at times, manipulated to serve to the European project.

Georgios Christos KOSTORAS and Georgios ZACHARIAS's paper focuses on the unresolved name dispute between Greece and North Macedonia. Adopting a psychoanalytical approach, the authors successfully demonstrate how incorporating psychology can improve our understanding of the conflict and its resolution.

Next, Isabella LOPES-MURPHY's article brings culture and cognition to our attention. With specific references to linguistic, communicative, evaluative and interactive dimensions, Isabella explains how the unique characteristics of Iranian and American cultures and prevailing standards shaped the outcomes of the negotiation process between these two nations during the hostage crises. In the following article, Manon ROBIN engages with the scholarship on cognitive psychology and emotions to reach a better understanding of EU immigration crises. Her analysis focuses on the role of perceptions, biases, perceived threats, and powerful emotions in European Unions' dealing with the Afghan refugee crisis. Pierre DYRIES 's article is another piece demonstrating the benefits of incorporating psychological insights, particularly cognitive psychology, into our understanding of international affairs. Bringing forth examples of wellknown intelligence fiascos from different historical areas and geographies, he sheds light on how international and national intelligence agents process information and use heuristics devices influence the interpretation of the information they have about other nations and their actions. The subsequent three papers deal with large group identities in different contexts. Jitka KRANZ's paper explores the role of Large-group identities in Post-Conflict Mostar. Adopting a psychological perspective, she offers explanations for the persisting ethnic divide in the region. Kaitlyn JEON's article analyses the Korean War through psychological concepts of loss, living legacies, and "border psychology". The piece provides valuable insights into the never-ending Korean War and the significance of large group identities at different stages of international conflicts. Kathlyn ends her paper with specific recommendations for the international community and diplomats. Last, Zackary LYONS's paper explores large group identities with a focus on the LGBTIQ Rights Movement in the European Union within the Polish context. Related to the above articles, Monica CLERIO's paper focuses on scapegoating in international conflicts as a defense mechanism. She explores the meaning of these important psychological concepts within the Burmese Context, providing valuable information on the effects of Scapegoating on both the aggressor and the targeted groups meanwhile not ignoring the significance of leader psychology in the handling of conflicts. Magomed BELTOUEV's article criticizes reductionist understanding of religion in the field of international relations and argues that modern nation state itself constitutes a quasi-religious paradigm creating a psychology that produces conflicts with the over-all mentality of religions such as Christianity and Islam.

The following three papers focus on international negotiations. Benedetta BENZON's article on the Kurdish question in Syria provides new insight regarding how to use psychology in negotiations and conflict resolution. Similarly, Allie HAWKES provides a psychological intake into the normalization deals between Arab countries and Israel on the Palestine issue. She particularly focuses on cognitive-psychological implications of legitimacy/ rhetoric of delegitimization, psychological exclusion, and "trust-breakdown" in negotiation processes. Mira KOVACOVA's paper intends to bridge Western and Islamic Psychologies in dealing with NonState Armed Actors. In doing so, she writes about different approaches of Western and Islamic psychology on emotions and the notion of obedience. Mira's piece provides specific recommendations on how to understand and use these diverging approaches in reaching successful negotiations between Islamic and Western groups.

Next, Lucile DEVULDER writes on cultural artifacts and their role in diplomacy and foreign policy, focusing particularly on France. She discusses the significance of history, identity, and the "original meaning" with specific references to collective trauma, collective guilt, and shame. Similarly, Yeonhwa KIM's article focuses on historical trauma and dehumanization and their manifestation in cultural media.

Nicholas DRIOUECH's piece addresses another important concept in the intersection of psychology and international relations: soft power. He explores the relationship between the soft power of states and their participation in international sports. Chloe-Alizee CLÉMENT's piece continues the soft power theme with its focus on Japan's diplomatic work within UNESCO. Finally, the last piece of the collection, Jean-Mihel HUET's interview, highlights the significance of psychology in international relations by focusing on the parallels and differences between nation branding and consumer marketing strategies. Overall, we hope that this rich collection will benefit diplomats, international organizations, international relations scholars, and ordinary citizens alike by adopting a psychological perspective in the analysis of a wide range of international issues from around the world.