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date: 18 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Because it remains difficult to gain access to political leaders—particularly those at the national level, researchers wishing to study them as individuals have had to become innovative. Such innovations include the development of psychobiography; structured, focused comparative case studies; personality assessment-at-a-distance; and the simulation of policymaking via experiments. With each, researchers have tried to become more systematic and objective in how they study leaders and what leaders are like. In applying these analysis-at-a-distance techniques, researchers have discovered a number of characteristics that appear to shape how political leaders engage in decision-making and the nature of their decisions. These characteristics cover the four elements of personality: cognition, motivation, traits (in this case, leadership style and its components), and reactions to the context (both immediately through emotions and in the long term through political experience). This chapter gives import to the individual level of analysis in understanding policymaking and the policymaking process as well as poses ways of opening up the “black box” to do so, both critical components of behavioral political science.

Keywords: leader, leadership, psychobiography, structured focused comparison, personality-at-a-distance, cognition, motivation, trait, context

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