Doing Democracy: The Social Psychological Mobilization and Consequences of Collective Action


  • The authors wish to thank Craig McGarty and Avelie Stuart for their comments on an earlier draft.

Emma F. Thomas, School of Psychology, Murdoch University, 90 South Street, Murdoch, Western Australia 6150. Tel: +61 8 9360 7209. [e-mail:].


Participating in collective actions, or acts of social protest, is one of the primary means that citizens have of participating in democracy and seeking social change. In this article, we outline the ways in which: social identity provides a psychological foundation for collective actions; social norms shape the mobilization and particular direction (disruptive vs. conventional) of that protest; and participating in collective actions is psychologically consequential and sociopolitically complex. We use this platform to put forward a series of practical implications for activists, social movement and nongovernmental groups, and authorities, who seek to mobilize consequential collective action. We conclude that collective action is a fundamental tool in the battle for social equality and justice. To better understand, and engage with this phenomenon, policy makers and practitioners need to attend to its origins in collective, group-based psychology.