Motivation and emotion/Book/2014/Collective action for social change motivation

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Collective action for social change:
What motivates people to
act collectively to initiate social change
or benefits for third parties?
Figure 1. Free East Timor to support Independence, Perth[explain?]

Overview[edit | edit source]

A number of theories attempt to identify key predictors of collective action. This chapter will explain these and show how they may naturally develop to encompass models of collective action that apply beyond the disadvantaged group,[grammar?] that is to answer why people participate in collective action on behalf of that group (as a third party).

Foundations of motivation[edit | edit source]

Motivation as a psychological construct seeks to identify the internal and external sources of our behaviour and why they[grammar?] vary in intensity and expression. There are four sources of motivation: internal needs, cognitions and emotions and external events. While drawing on these sources, the current page seeks to explore motivational aspects that specifically relate to collective action. A brief summary of these foundations is provided in Table 1 (collated from Reeves, 2009).

Table 1
Sources of Motivation

Source Description Manifestations, key constructs
Physiological needs Survival needs Thirst, Hunger, Sex
Psychological needs Arising from the self’s psychological wants, motivates behaviour that promotes growth Autonomy, Competence, Relatedness
Social needs Acquired psychological needs Achievement, Affiliation, Intimacy, Power
Cognitions Mental events – way of thinking and believing, made of mental constructs Goal setting and Goal striving, self-efficacy, learned helplessness, mastery, self-concept (including identity), self-regulation
Emotions Biological, cognitive, social and purposive reactions to events (or antecedents). Organisation of feelings with behaviour responses, appraisal responses, social engagement, motivation moderation
External events Environmental, social and cultural sources of motivation Environmental stimulus that acts as an incentive, social or cultural norms that reinforce

How the sources of motivation might play out in collective action choices. The motivations for collective action are a complex interplay of the above sources. For example, a quasi-need may not be satisfied (say job security or financial stability). If this dissatisfaction is derived from an external structural source, say unfair work practices, then threats to psychological (autonomy) and social needs (achievement) may be perceived as ongoing and amplify the drive to overcome discrepancies between the current state and ideal state and motivate action. Patterns of behaviour generated by psychological relatedness needs, social needs and cognitions (self-efficacy, learned helplessness) predicate whether collective action is conceivable and how readily accessible action groups will be perceived to be. Emotions,[grammar?] may amplify the motivation to act collectively or alternatively, be satisfied by alternative means (unrelated to structural source) and defer collective engagement. Emotions also play a role in the type of collective action that individuals might engage in. Beyond the individual, these sources interplay within the group context, not only must the motivation be strong enough to change the status quo, but the group to which the individual identifies (through a manifestation of self-concept) must also be perceived to have these qualities for collective engagement to occur[grammar?].

How does collective action happen? What models predict collective behaviour?[edit | edit source]

There are a number of factors at play that translate the existence of inequality or injustice to the identification of it and then to illicit group participation as agents of social change. Common to each of the theories outlined below, is the recognition of social injustice or inequality, the identification that this injustice applies to many, an emotive response (both individually and as a group), a perception of group efficacy, and pathways to collective action[grammar?]. They[what?] converge on the premise that identification with a group is a predictor, and diverge on the role of emotion. The cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural pathways differ. So too do the pathways that generate, engage and maintain third party involvement

Recognition of inequity[edit | edit source]

The most fundamental step is to recognise that an injustice has occurred or inequality exists. From an individual perspective this is not necessarily obvious (van Zomeren & Iyer, 2009; van Stekelenburg, Klandermans, & van Dijk, 2009). Structural disadvantage might be a reinforcer of poor self-concept, disengagement might be a reinforcer of helplessness and they may not see an alternative option (Reeves, 2009)[grammar?]. Inequality or injustice might be perceived to be deserved and unchangeable (van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008). Disadvantage must be perceived to be both unjust and changeable to motivate for action (Mummendey, Kessler, Klink, & Mielke, 1999).

Relative deprivation theory and the emotional motivator[edit | edit source]

Relative Deprivation Theory (RDT) addresses how those in a position of perceived disadvantage come to undertake collective action. According to current studies of RDT individuals who perceive that there situation is unjust relative to others will be motivated to act collectively when they view the disadvantage as being group-based (and apply to the group with which they identify) and that the group is perceived to have efficacy (provide benefit)(Zomeren & Iyer, 2009). The mechanism to action is emotion. The recognition of relative deprivation (deprivation relative to other groups), initiates a strong emotional response, in particular anger, that motivates action (van Zomeren, 2013). The role of emotion, particularly group based emotion, as a predictor of engagement in collective action is well supported by numerous studies (van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008).

A surprising study by Sturmer and Simon (Study 2, 2009), investigated the role of anger in predicting motivation to participate in collective action. They selected 182 German university students and randomly assigned them to two groups. Individuals in both groups were asked to self-report on attitudes to university reforms (chosen to elicit an anger response), measures of collective identification and expectancies of protest. The experimental (catharsis) group then participated in an exercise targeted at reducing hostile emotions, while the control group completed a neutral exercise. After the exercise, both groups then completed questionnaires designed to measure current emotional state and willingness to participate in collective action. This study confirmed that anger, and thereby motivational strength, was dissipated by the cathartic exercise. Further, although anger was found to be predictive of collective action it was only so for activities classified as hostile protest. Could this indicate that emotion is uniquely predictive only when it is not ameliorated and for certain types of collective action?

If emotion is a strong predictor of engagement in collective action, might this be a source of third party engagement?[explain?] That is, eliciting an emotional response to support a disadvantaged group when we do not normally identify with that group?[grammar?] Could RDT pathways provide insight into third party action?

Iyer, Schmader and Lickel (2007), researched the role of emotion in motivating support for collective action. In particular the two studies investigated how reaction to perceived harm done by the occupation of Iraq influenced the emotions and protest intentions of American (Study 1) and British (Study 2) people. The conceptualisation of this study included assuming that citizens would view that they are members of an in-group (by way of citizenship) and would support protest to benefit an out-group (Iraqi citizens) if the occupation was considered harmful. The mechanism to enlist support was through strong emotional reactions caused by a judgement about the validity of the occupation and how this reflected on group responsibility and self-image (the country of origin). Threats to self-image and belief in in-group responsibility were hypothesised to generate feelings of anger, guilt and shame that would manifest in support for different strategies, either confrontation of those responsible, compensation to Iraq or withdrawal from Iraq. The American study found that shame was the only emotion that was associated with a feeling that the self-image was threatened. For both studies, shame directly predicted support for troop withdrawal. Anger, Shame and Guilt were associated with feelings of ingroup responsibility for both studies. Guilt did not reliably predict protest intentions in either study. Anger predicted intentions of all three strategies in both samples.

So, the mechanism by which we define ourselves might be multidimensional[explain?][Rewrite to improve clarity]. The global image of citizenship is able to provide a significant attachment to the self-image and group responsibilities such that threats to it determine collective action intentions. On the face of it I am not responsible for the governments behaviours, however, my citizenship (and possibly voting rights) provides a group identification that elicits group responsibility to action by way of anger, shame and guilt at the role my identity has played in the outcome.

The emotional impetus for support of a disadvantaged group is driven by threats to my image by way of group processes. I need not be a member of the disadvantaged group.

Figure 1. : Make Poverty History Armbands

Another pathway generated by emotional response is demonstrated by Batson, Chang, Orr and Rowland (2002). A manipulation of empathy experiment found that for those members for which empathic response was high[missing something?]. This reflected in more positive attitudes to drug addicted people and, significantly, induced greater motivation to help by providing additional funding for a support program at the expense of other groups. The feature of removal of funding from alternative sources was important here as it represents a proxy for cost to self. While the actual reallocation does not cost the participant, it does impose a responsibility to evaluate relative deprivation. There is also a moral cost (conscience cost) that would be included in the mind of the rational decision maker. The view that collective action arises from the rational cost-benefit analysis is contested[factual?]. What is evident[factual?] though is that on the pathway to collective action there are decisions that are made, conflict in identities to be resolved, efficacy to be assessed, emotions to be ameliorated[Rewrite to improve clarity].

Empathy can induce prosocial behaviour on behalf of a disadvantaged group.[factual?]

Social identity theory[edit | edit source]

Social identity theory (SIT) views predictors of participation in collective action as being based on the way we identify our social selves. The sociocultural context of the individual will determine how they identify with social groups and, consequently, how they might be engaged in collective action. The self-concept in the social and cultural setting brings with it expectations of behaviour and defines the roles a person expects to play within the individual context (Reeve, 2009). Group identification results when the perceived group identity matches the self-concept (van Zomeren & Iyer, 2009). Group identification then leads the individual to view themselves within the group context, so that group goals and motivations become their own (van Zomeren, 2013). The model assumes that people will strive to maximise the beneficial aspects of their group identity (e.g., self-striving) so striving becomes a group phenomenon. Relative deprivation is viewed in the group context and the type and strength of identification will be a stronger predictors of collective action than individual affective response. The direct path is more cognitive in SIT than emotional (Mummendey, Kessler, Klink, & Mielke, 1999).

Van Zomeren and Iyer (2009) summarise the three core requirements that need to be satisfied for a group identity to motivate engagement in collective action. That is, the movement from the disadvantaged group to a more advantaged group is not possible on an individual basis. Also, the relative position of the disadvantage is not justified, and the relative position of the group can be changed by group action.

The strength of the group affiliation will determine the likelihood of collective action (Zomeren, 2013). Van Zomeren, Postmes, and Spears' (2008) substantial meta-analysis confirms that identity is a powerful predictor of collective action. This study is discussed below in relation to SIMCA. In addition, identification with a politicised group will be an even stronger predictor (Sturmer and Simon, 2004). A politicised identity is associated with an obligation to participate to benefit the group as a result of behaviour expectancies of the politicised group, such as a recognised social movement organisation. The power of a politicised group is that the social identity is transformed into an action oriented identity (Van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008).

Mattis et al. (2009) conducted qualitative research in a low-income urban housing community in New York to examine what they deemed as social production of altruism (caring behaviour). Intensive interviews were coded identifying the source motivation of caring behaviour from members of a disadvantaged group. These sources were coded as norms-based motives (ideological and non-ideological); relational norms (motives that are influenced by modelling, caring inter-relationships, caring obligation); personality/character norms (self-concept, self-representation); and abstract moral principles. These interviews highlight that the sociocultural context in which someone behaves influences the attitudes to caring and altruism, and significantly, even if the individual themselves was under-resourced. For example, many acts of caring arose from an expectation deemed to be driven by family values or alternative moral values and expectations that you help a person in need, even in circumstances when this meant quite a significant loss to themselves.

If a social identity can be based on something other than experienced disadvantage, then it is conceivable that an altruistic identity might be created by altruistic social and cultural contexts.

Integrating approaches: SIMCA and EMSICA[edit | edit source]

Van Zomeren, Postmes and Spears (2008) conducted a large meta-analysis of research associated with modelling collective behaviour and outlined an integrated model called Social Identity Model of Collective Action (SIMCA). The study brought together key components of predictive action into a regression model, incorporating the core factors associated with relative deprivation theory (affective and non-effective justice), resource mobilisation theory (political and group efficacy), and social identity theory (politicised and non-politicised identity). The model predicted that social identity would directly impact on collective action intentions and would also influence affective responses to the perceptions of justice and efficacy to indirectly influence collective intentions. The model of best fit supported the proposition that perceived justice, efficacy and identity all provided independent predictive power of social action. Nonetheless, is was noted that each of the elements varied widely across the sample in effect size.

On a more micro-level, affective injustice (those associated with a strong emotive response) produced stronger effect than non-affective justice. A politicised identity produced [missing something?] stronger effect than non-politicised identity. Interestingly, effect sizes of injustice and efficacy were stronger for incidental disadvantage than for structural disadvantage (van Zomeren, Postmes, & Spears, 2008). Perhaps an indication that these motives are stronger when the disadvantage is not endemic in the social or political structures and that they are more effective because the barrier to change might not be so difficult to overcome[grammar?]. Another possibility is that it may be geared more to the direct emotional pathway to collective action, since the reaction to incidental disadvantage appear to be more likely spontaneous. A strong affiliation with a social action identity is more likely required when the disadvantage involves more ingrained experience of suppression (structural disadvantage).

Figure 3. Diagram of comparison flows[explain?]

Although a good fit was achieved by van Zomeren, Postmes and Spears (2008), an alternative pathway using the same variables was examined by Thomas, Mavor and McGarty (2012). In this study, the encapsulated model of social identity in collective action (EMSICA) was examined. The difference between the two models is that in EMSICA it is assumed that the emotional pathway precedes social identity formation (an alternative considered possible by Zomeren et al., 2008), particularly when the effective injustice response is to incidental disadvantage. This study used a modified justice variable, one of moral outrage (like anger but directed at a third party). In the EMSICA model, injustice relates to the perception of unfair disadvantage (poor living conditions) of an out-group (developing nations) and the affective response is moral outrage. Moral outrage leads to the formation of social identity based on similar beliefs (like-mindedness). By the nature of its formation it is an action-oriented identity and, thus, a strong predictor of collective action. Although the model proposes that efficacy and injustice is moderated by social identification, the model of best fit requires the inclusion of a direct predictive link between injustice and collective action. Despite intensive research efforts, some motivations remain unexplained by predictive models. A fact that both studies recognised and aligned with the dynamic nature of social action. Context remains critical to our explanatory power.

Through the advancement in collective action theories, we have identified something we can directly link with our everyday understanding of collective action, and it is 'outrage'. Moral outrage, a response we might readily affiliate with, tell us about why we act on behalf of others we may not know.

What about collective action on behalf of others?[edit | edit source]

Where and how might the moral outrage be generated? In terms used by much of the [what?]literature, at what point does a group identity become one consistent with acting on behalf of a disadvantaged out-group? How are these identities explained in theory and practice?

McGarty, Bliuc, Thomas and Bongiorno (2009) offer an alternative type of group which they suggest crosses over social categories; that is, the opinion-based group. An opinion-based group is a social identity based on a shared opinion. It is also a psychological group rather than a categorical one. Conceptualising a social identity in this way provides a means of explaining why people from very different sociocultural backgrounds might come together for a single cause and for the benefit of a disadvantaged group. An opinion-based group is a collective identity in that it is formed on the basis of initiating social change or defending the status quo in the face of change. Group-based norms are, therefore, action oriented. The authors proposed that this type of group explains why people might come together spontaneously for a cause, and that it is particularly evident from circumstances where no previous inter-relationships or identification existed. Moreover, McGarty et al. further suggested that this phenomenon could also explain why membership of a social categorical group might not predict willingness to participate on behalf of that group (Simon et. al. as cited in McGarty, Bliuc, Thomas & Bongiorno, 2009).

The results of the analysis of moral outrage and EMSICA by Thomas, Mavor and McGarty’s (2012) appear to be consistent with the premise of opinion-based groups. That is, the relevant group shares moral values that, when violated, will readily initiate social action. A moral identity is viewed as a particularly rigid one in that it is associated with well-articulated norms around beliefs. The affective response to a challenge to moral convictions is strong and the group is primed to defend these (van Zomeren, 2013). Actors within the moral identity are classified as “Intuitive Theologians” and the motivation to protect violations to this identity is so powerful it supersedes any conflicting motivations associated with alternative self-representations or subordinate identities (van Zomeren & Spears, 2009).

Stekelenburg, Klandermans and van Dijk (2009) examined ideological motives across two types of political protest, one a political movement (power-oriented) and another a value-oriented protest. What this study demonstrated was that when collective action is value–oriented, motivational strength is not mediated by efficacy.

People will participate regardless of the anticipated success of the outcome, because of the drive to express their opinion. The process of participation is satisfactory. Contrarily, instrumental and efficacy motives were consistently high in the power-oriented context.

A contrasting pathway was examined by van Zomeren, Postmes, Spears and Bettache (2011) in which moral convictions were defined as espoused by van Zomeren (2013). Van Zomeren and colleagues postulated that moral convictions increased the likelihood of participation in collective action, by facilitating an advantaged group identifying with a a disadvantaged group. They further viewed the moral identity as relevant, in that it provides moralistic norms. However, these norms apply across groups and behaviour motivation arises from an increased identification with the disadvantaged group (rather than identification with an opinion-based group). A study using non-Muslim Dutch university students examined attitudes to discrimination against Muslim nationals (study 1). This study found that identification with the advantaged group (of which the individual is a member) did not explain variance in collection action tendencies, but there was a medium effect of moral conviction (against discrimination of Dutch Muslims) with tendencies. The second study in a population of Hong Kong Chines students included measures of attachment to the disadvantaged group (Mainland Chinese). This study confirmed the premise that moral conviction influenced collective action tendencies but also found that the intervening variable was identification with the disadvantaged group. A significant proportion of the influence of moral convictions on group based anger was mediated through the identification with the disadvantaged group. What the model also found was that the variance in collection tendencies associated with efficacy was not mediated through the identification with disadvantage, a result that was unexpected. A finding that is consistent with Thomas, Mavor and McGarty’s (2012) analysis supporting alternative causal pathways for efficacy and injustice.

How do we get it started? Lessons for the social activist.[edit | edit source]

We now see that motivating people to engage in collective action to help others is multifaceted, and pathways are diverse and sometimes covary. The link between experience and behavioural intentions is an interplay of individual difference, social identity and efficacy judgements. The context is critical when choosing the right motivational strategy when initiating social action. This complexity should be viewed as opportunities for leverage and social activist should not be deterred by the difficulty in finding a unified model linking motivation to intention and behaviour. The research work continues and has provided valuable predictability thus far.

We have seen evidence of how theoretical linkages might play out in the practical world:

  • Tapping into the right emotion is important for enlisting and maintaining action, so too is conveying the message that the type of action (not some other event) will ameliorate these affective responses.
  • When a cause is value oriented, there appears to be satisfaction gained by participating in collective action that allowed the expression of beliefs. Gaining support of the target activists might best be served be eliciting support through images, stories and reports centred on the confrontation to values, morals or opinions than specific structural barriers to be overcome. The goal of the collective action should likely be expressed as a redress of damage and by comparing relative disadvantage with community expectations.
  • Power-oriented causes might best be served by eliciting support on the basis of the effectiveness of collective action to make a difference, and by actions that confront the invalidity of the status quo. Material about why the group is effective, what will change and what the benefits will be will likely support the motivational strength of participation by building efficacy and informing cost-benefit analysis.
  • Structural disadvantage might best be redressed by harnessing a sense of us and collective responsibility, incidental disadvantage by harnessing principles of efficacy.
  • Aggressive protest initiators might need to think about generating anger or moral outrage and harnessing that immediately to action. Less aggressive collective actions might target shame and guilt to elicit either the giving of funds or alternate compensation or alternative forms of reparation of damage.
  • Well developed activist groups have the advantage that membership links directly with norms of behaviour and inner obligations (expectancies) to act. For smaller scale groups creating a sense of affinity with well developed organisations might readily activate these obligations.
  • The awareness that opinion-based groups and moral conventions can be activated to generate spontaneous social action provides avenues of cognitive discourse that can generate powerful affective responses. Threats to self-image are particularly useful to articulate "who do you want to be".
  • Taking advantage of the clarity that affective responses provide and linking these moments of clarity with direct avenues for action might enhance participation.

With all the avenues to participation available there are ample opportunities to elicit engagement along the way. Pathways to change should be multifunctional. As an activist that is generating collective engagement in a new movement, a continuum approach might be fruitful. The first step might be an awareness campaign to bring as much of the community to a common, shared opinion. Once engaged these opinions might be brought to crisis and affective response harnessed to direct and immediate action.

Providing multiple levels of engagement does have a potential drawback. That is, that once engaged people might engage in the least confrontational collective actions to address angst but fail to remain engaged for more confrontational means of protest.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

There are a number of formal theories that articulate possible pathways from motivational sources to collective action behaviour. While there is predictive power from attempts to model these theories empirically, the complex way in which individuals motivation and behaviour translate into intergroup relations have remained elusive for full predictive power. Such an outcome is not required to make use of either the theories or to further explore dynamics between disadvantage, affective response, and efforts to change the status quo and make a difference for others (Thomas, Mavor and McGarty, 2012). Lessons from research tell us that the relationships are dynamic, that individual difference is critical to attachment to groups and that conformity in some part is a precursor of social change.

Review[edit | edit source]

1 The four sources of motivation can be described as:

physiological needs, psychological needs, social needs and cognitions.
needs, cognitions, emotions and external events
internal events, external events, cognitions and emotions
social, cognitive, emotions and environment

2 Relative deprivation theory and social identity theory converge on the role that emotions play in generating support for collective action.


3 Intense anger prevents people from participating in collective action


4 Values systems can motivate group collective behaviour?


See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Batson, C.D., Chang, J., Orr, R & Rowland, J. (2002). Empathy, Attitudes, and Action: Can feeling for a Member of a Stigmatized Group Motivate One to help the Group? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 28, 1656-1666.

Iyer, A., Schmader, T., & Lickel, B. (2007). Why Individuals Protest the Perceived Transgressions of Their country: The Role of Anger, Shame and Guilt. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 33, 572-587.

Mattis, J.S., Hammond, W.P., Grayman, N., Bonacci, M., Brennan, W., Cowie, S., Ladyzhenskaya, L. & So, S. (2009). American Journal of Community Psychology, 43, 71-84.

McGarty, C., Bliuc, A., Thomas, E.F., & Bongiorno, R. (2009). Collective Action as the Material Expression of Opinion-Based Group Membership. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 839-857.

Mummendey, A., Kessler, T., Klink, A., & Mielke, R. (1999). Strategies to cope with negative social identity: Predictions by social identity theory and relative deprivation theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 76, 229-245.

Reeve, J. (2009). Understanding motivation and emotion (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

Sturmer, S. & Simon, B. (2009). Pathways to Collective Protest: Calculation, Identification, or Emotion? A Critical Analysis of the Role of Group-Based Anger in Social Movement Participation. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 681-705.

Thomas, E.F., Mavor, K.I., & McGarty, C. (2012). Social identities facilitate and encapsulate action-relevant constructs: A test of the social identity model of collective action. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 15, 75-88.

van Stekelenburg, J., Klandermans, B., & van Dijk, W.W. (2009). Context Matters: Explaining how and why mobilizing context influences motivational dynamics. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 815-838.

van Zomeren, M., & Iyer, A. (2009). Introduction to the Social and Psychological Dynamics of Collective Action. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 645-660.

van Zomeren, M., Postmes, T., & Spears, R. (2008). Toward an integrative social identity model of collection action: A quantitative research synthesis of three socio-psychological perspectives. Psychological Bulletin, 134, 504-535.

van Zomeren, M., Postmes, T., & Spears, R., Bettache, K. (2011). Can moral convictions motivate the advantaged to challenge social inequality?: Extending the social identoty model of collective action. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 14, 735-753.

Van Zomeren, M., & Spears, R. (2009). Metaphors of Protest: A Clasification of Motivations for Collective Action. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 661-679.

Van Zomeren, M. (2013). Four Core Social-Psychological Motivations to undertake Collective Action. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 7/6, 378-388.

External links[edit | edit source]