The political psychology of protest: Sacrificing for a cause

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We live in contentious times. Why are people prepared to sacrifice wealth, a pleasant and carefree life, or sometimes even their lives for a common cause? This question brings us to the individual level of analysis, and therefore to political psychology. People live in a perceived world. Indeed, this is what a political psychology of protest is about - trying to understand why people who are seemingly in the same socio-political configuration respond so differently. I will illustrate this point with an overview of state-of-the-art theoretical approaches and up-to-date empirical evidence. Discussed are grievances, efficacy/cynicism, identification, emotions, and social embeddedness. Most recent approaches combine these concepts into one model comprising two routes: An efficacy route steered by social embeddedness and a grievances route steered by cynicism. The working of the model is illustrated by empirical evidence from contemporary events such as migrants, collective action, demonstrating diasporas, and Social Media protests. Each of these illustrations exemplifies how different aspects of the socio-political context as dual identification, group status, and virtual embeddedness affect individuals' protest behavior. As such the paper aims to provide an overview of political psychological work that may contribute to the understanding of our contentious times. © 2013 Hogrefe Publishing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)224-234
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Psychologist
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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