Intergroup emotions and collective action

Daniel A Miller, Purdue University


Collective action is a group level response to a negative situation that affects an entire group. Although emotion initially held a prominent role in theories of collective action (LeBon, 1895; Allport, 1924), it is often overlooked in contemporary theories. Past research on collective action can be organized into three general perspectives: The individual difference perspective, the social identity perspective, and the cognitive perspective. Three studies investigate the role emotions play in each of these perspectives using Intergoup Emotions Theory (Smith, 1993) as a framework. The results from Study 1 indicate that group anger and group strength are important mediators of two individual difference variables - locus of control and group identification. Results from Study 2 indicate that legitimacy, an important antecedent of collective action according to the social identity approach, also effects collective through feelings of group anger. Furthermore, results from Study 2 demonstrate the role of fear as an inhibitor of collective action. Results from Study 3 indicate that when people are induced to feel angry they perceive less risk in collective action as compared to participants induced to feel afraid. Study 3 helps to resolve a criticism of the cognitive perspective - that the potential costs of collective action often outweigh the benefits and participation in action is not logical. However, if anger leads participants to perceive collective action as less risky, then their participation in collective action is more reasonable. In general these studies indicate that increased attention to emotions in collective action research is warranted.




Carlston, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Social psychology

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