What is the Psychology Behind Protest?

What is the Psychology Behind Protest?

All over the news we see people protesting in different parts of the world. Sometimes it is for social issues, human rights, etc. Political psychology and social psychology typically view demonstrations as influencing variables. These social issues can be anything like racism, suicides of farmers, political oppositions, or against a particular law which is passed, etc.

Why people protest:

To answer why people protest, we need to look into these five aspects of protest participation. These five aspects of protest participation are as follows:

  1. Grievances
  2. Efficacy
  3. Identity
  4. Emotions
  5. Social Embeddedness

Researchers have taken into account all five of the antecedents in order to comprehend the model of the pathways of protest. This model focuses on identification and emotions. According to the concept, people are more likely to participate in collective action when they have more complaints, a larger sense of effectiveness, are more connected into civil society, and have lower levels of cynicism (Van Stekelenburg, 2013).

Anger, a willingness to publicly question established authority, and a desire to change current authoritative institutions are characteristics of protesters. They protest when a big group of these resentful people get together, espousing similar views, and believe that their ideals have been violated. Not all aggrieved people protest (Van Stekelenburg, 2013).

Reasons for protesting:

As per history, the research related to understanding and explaining crowd behavior dates back to the mid-1880s in the field of social psychology (Roberts, 2020). But what are the factors which influence this protest? There are environmental, societal, and emotional factors due to which a protest takes place. Following are some of these factors:

  1. Absence of trust over authorities or government – When the people of a certain country or group do not have faith in their government or authority, a protest takes place.
  2. Shared grievances – When people have similar situations and issues which can be geographic, financial, political, sexual, racial, or any different factor which units one to attain justice.
  3. Similar Intensity – It is said that whenever one emotion is at its peak no decision should be taken. But in many situations which consist of groups, anger and frustration collectively spills over.
  4. Geographic Proximity – The geographical location where you live has an impact on your personal and societal beliefs.
  5. Anonymity – Recognition odds are better for those who are part of a group. Some people like to highlight their names in the values they believe in.
  6. Efficiency – During a worldwide demonstration, this phenomena becomes visible on social media channels. The protest gets a momentum with the help of funds and support of more people.
  7. Survival triggers – When a person’s body secretes hormones like adrenaline, which is a stress hormone, the body activates its fight or flight response mechanism which in turn activates our survival mode (Roberts, 2020).
Three dimensions are given by Wright, Taylor, and Moghaddam:

Wright and his colleagues 1990 proposed a framework on the basis of three dimensions. According to observers, these three dimensions were:

  1. Inaction and Action
  2. Individual action and Collective action
  3. Normative and Non-normative actions

The individual action focuses on improvising one’s own conditions. Whereas collective action is concerned with improving the conditions of one’s group. Normative actions consist of actions that take place according to the norms of a social system which can be to file a petition. Non-normative actions consist of violation of the norms of the social system or violation of the social rules which can be civil disobedience and illegal protests (Van Stekelenburg, 2013).

Why protests are important:

There are reasons why protests happen but is it necessary to protest? If yes, why are protests important? The following are some of the reasons why protests are important which are:

  1. People understand that they are not alone in the situation
  2. Protests alter the agenda and initiates debate regarding the issue
  3. It provides an essential voice to the minority groups in the electoral democracy.
Protests done by wrestlers in India:

The protest was started by wrestlers for the allegations of sexual harassment. The wrestlers demanded the arrest of the president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and parliament member Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh from Bharatiya Janata Party.

The Delhi police are under investigation of the case of Mr. Singh regarding the same. The wrestlers took an emotional step and gathered in Haridwar to immerse their medals in the river Ganga. The wrestlers took a step back at the last moment but did not wish to step back to get justice.

The protest also got social support by the civilians and also has been noticed by the international sporting bodies. International sporting bodies include the International Olympic Committee and the United World Wrestling. The police crackdown on the wrestlers happened on the inauguration day of the new parliament building of India. Many groups like Jat farm leaders are supporting the protest.

Impact of Emotional Factors on Protest Participation

When people are more resentful, feel more empowered, are less cynical, and are more integrated into civilian society, they are more likely to participate in collective action during protests. Protests are influenced by environmental, societal, and emotional factors like lack of trust, common grievances, and similar intensity. Due to their geographic proximity, anonymity, effectiveness, and survival triggers, protests are significant. The three dimensions of inaction, individual, collective, normative, and non-normative action proposed by Wright are discussed. Demonstrations are crucial for democracy because they give marginalized groups a crucial voice, change the course of events, and spark discussion.

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