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Angry or Anxious? Testing two emotion-based pathways to collective action

WorkgroupSocial Processes
FundingMargarete von Wrangell-Programm (MWK)
Project description

Looking at the news makes clear: All over the world, people take to the streets for a wide variety of reasons. Their passionate protests for (or against) a certain cause often results from social influence, which nowadays is often achieved through emotionalized communication via the Internet. But what exactly motivates people to participate in demonstrations, sign petitions, or otherwise engage collectively?

When numerous people act jointly to achieve a common goal, research often refers to their behavior as collective action. Often, collective action arises in response to a collective discrepancy, that is, in response to conditions affecting a larger group of people and perceived as inacceptable or undesirable. Previous research has mainly focused on situations in which members of one group had the impression that members of another group (had) treated them unfairly. The perception that one's group has been unfairly treated is often linked to anger. Earlier research shows that this anger is linked to a greater readiness to engage in collective action. But not everyone potentially affected by a collective discrepancy engages in collective action - and not everyone who does is driven by anger. An emotion seeming highly relevant in this regard is anxiety. However, this emotion has rarely been studied in research on collective action so far.

Therefore, this project will investigate two emotion-based pathways to collective action. Aside from anger, it will focus on anxiety as a second pathway. To this end, experiments will be conducted using media reports or content similar to content that is circulated on social networks. These experiments will be complemented by longitudinal studies. Both types of studies put a special emphasis on the triggers of anger and anxiety in the context of collective discrepancies as well as on the consequences these emotions have for action readiness and information search. The insights gained from these studies improve our understanding of social change processes and especially shed light on the role emotions play in shaping those processes. Thereby, they also help us to gauge to what extent contemporary protests reflect a "post-truth era" in which emotions are more influential than facts.


Dr. Lara Ditrich Dr. Lara Ditrich
Tel.: +49 7071 979-268