Social psychological research has taught us a lot about why people protest. This article provides a theoretical and empirical overview. Discussed are grievances, efficacy, identification, emotions and social embeddedness, followed by the most recent approaches, which combine these concepts into dual pathway models. Finally, two future directions are discussed: (1) to shed light on the paradox of persistent participation, and (2) to clarify how perceptions of sociopolitical context affects protest participation. © The Author(s) 2013.