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Collective Psychological Empowerment as a Model of Social Change: Researching Crowds and Power


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to John Drury, School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton BN1 9QH, UK [e-mail:].


The issue of psychological empowerment in crowd events has important implications for both theory and practice. Theoretically, the issue throws light on both intergroup conflict and the nature and functions of social identity. Practically, empowerment in collective events can feed into societal change. The study of empowerment therefore tells us something about how the forces pressing for such change might succeed or fail. The present article first outlines some limitations in the conceptualization of both identity and empowerment in previous research on crowd events, before delineating the elaborated social identity model of crowds and power. We then describe recent empirical contributions to the field. These divide into two areas of research: (1) empowerment variables and (2) the dynamics of such empowerment. We finally suggest how psychological empowerment and social change are connected through crowd action. We conclude with some recommendations for practice following from the research described.