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Collective Action in Modern Times: How Modern Expressions of Prejudice Prevent Collective Action


  • This research was made possible through funding from the Dutch Science Foundation (NWO, Vernieuwingsimpuls) awarded to Manuela Barreto. We thank Dorien de Landstheer, Jeannette Honée, Angele Baas, Nicole Dujardin, Marian Hiekendorff, Dayanara Nijhoeve, Lenneke van Schoonhoven, Renee Verhaar, Renske Verweijen, and Ikram Yasbah for assistance with data collection. Manuela Barreto is currently employed at the Centre for Social Research and Intervention, Lisbon, Portugal.

*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Naomi Ellemers, Institutde for Psychological Research, Leiden University, P.O. Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden, The Netherlands [e-mail:].


This contribution addresses modern forms of group-based discrimination, and examines how these impact upon the likelihood that people engage in collective action. Based on a review of the relevant literature, we predict that modern expressions of prejudice are less likely to be perceived as indicating group-based disadvantage and hence elicit less anger, protest, and collective action than old-fashioned prejudice. We present three studies to offer empirical support for this prediction. In Study 1 (N= 116), female participants were led to believe that the general public endorses either old-fashioned or modern sexist views. In Study 2 (N= 44) and 3 (N= 37) female participants were exposed to a student supervisor who allegedly held either old-fashioned or modern sexist views. Results of all three studies indicate that modern sexism is less likely to be perceived as a form of discrimination, and as a result elicits less anger at the source and less support for collective action (Study 1), intentions to protest (Study 2), and collective protest behavior (Study 3) than old-fashioned sexism. In discussing the results of this research, we connect to current insights on antecedents of collective action, and identify conclusions from our analysis that are relevant for societal and organizational policy making.