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J Pers Soc Psychol. 2011 Jul;101(1):129-48. doi: 10.1037/a0022728.

Explaining radical group behavior: Developing emotion and efficacy routes to normative and nonnormative collective action.

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School of Psychology, University of St Andrews, Scotland.


A recent model of collective action distinguishes 2 distinct pathways: an emotional pathway whereby anger in response to injustice motivates action and an efficacy pathway where the belief that issues can be solved collectively increases the likelihood that group members take action (van Zomeren, Spears, Fischer, & Leach, 2004). Research supporting this model has, however, focused entirely on relatively normative actions such as participating in demonstrations. We argue that the relations between emotions, efficacy, and action differ for more extreme, nonnormative actions and propose (a) that nonnormative actions are often driven by a sense of low efficacy and (b) that contempt, which, unlike anger, entails psychological distancing and a lack of reconciliatory intentions, predicts nonnormative action. These ideas were tested in 3 survey studies examining student protests against tuition fees in Germany (N = 332), Indian Muslims' action support in relation to ingroup disadvantage (N = 156), and British Muslims' responses to British foreign policy (N = 466). Results were generally supportive of predictions and indicated that (a) anger was strongly related to normative action but overall unrelated or less strongly related to nonnormative action, (b) contempt was either unrelated or negatively related to normative action but significantly positively predicted nonnormative action, and (c) efficacy was positively related to normative action and negatively related to nonnormative action. The implications of these findings for understanding and dealing with extreme intergroup phenomena such as terrorism are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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