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Journal honors George as 'father of political psychology'

STANFORD -- Alexander L. George, professor emeritus of political science at Stanford, has been honored with a special edition of the journal Political Psychology devoted to his contributions to that field of study.

George, 74, is one of the "fathers of political psychology," according to Janice Gross Stein of the University of Toronto, who organized the volume, in which six scholars trace their research to questions George raised while studying the impact of personality, cognition and decision making on politics, especially Cold War foreign policy. The journal is published by the International Society of Political Psychology.

George and his wife, Juliette George, published a path-breaking and controversial personality study in 1956 of President Woodrow Wilson, which demonstrated the importance of including the individual leader's personality needs in historical-political analysis. Considered an early example of psycho-biography, the study looked at Wilson's personality development as a factor to explain both his successes and failures.

Later, after joining the Stanford faculty in 1968, George published seminal articles on the impact of cognitive beliefs on an individual's political behavior and on the role of stress in decision-making. He developed methods of using systematic, focused case studies and comparisons of them as a basis for building theories of political behavior, especially in the areas of Cold War foreign policy.

He also attempted to expand the focus of studies of political decision-making from the level of the individual by including analysis of small group and organizational dynamics.

"George's path-breaking work on coercive diplomacy, deterrence and crisis management encouraged two generations of scholars to test theories against empirical evidence," Stein writes, leading to the refinement of theories and better ability to apply them by those who make policy.

George's 1993 book, Bridging the Gap Between Theory and Practice in Foreign Policy, tries to persuade practitioners and scholars of politics that they need to collaborate more to improve their work.



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