Rational choice accounts of political participation identify two major solutions to ‘the paradox of participation’: collective incentives and selective incentives. Prior findings regarding the viability of these solutions are seemingly inconclusive and contradictory. One important reason for this could be that the applicability of these solutions varies across participatory modes. In this article, a first attempt is made to develop a theoretical answer to the question of why this may be the case. The predictions are then tested across four different modes of participation, using longitudinal data that eliminate or reduce the biases inherent in cross-sectional designs. The results show different types of incentives to strike with distinctly variable force across different modes of participation. Most importantly, whereas electoral modes of participation (voting and party activity) are affected by selective incentives only, the non-electoral modes (contacting and manifestations) are the consequence of both collective and selective incentives.