Support and Nonsupport for Nationalist Rebellion: A Prospect Theory Approach

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Abstract

Prospect theory has been advanced as one way to link intentional rebellious action and the influence of social conditions on individual decisions to support such action. This study extends the application of prospect theory by explaining tendencies toward action or inaction among individuals within identical social contexts. Put simply, the way in which people define reference points has an effect on how they perceive violent options. These perceptions may invoke inaction biases among members of a constituent community. This explanation is explored with illustrative examples drawn from interviews with individuals who supported or did not support rebellious action in Northern Ireland (in 1998) and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip (in 1999). The interview data suggest that territorial demands are an important factor in how rebellious options are perceived.

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