People may engage in protest activity either because of collective incentives or selective incentives, or a combination of them. In this study we focus on the selective incentives part of the calculus of political participation, particularly the impact of the social dimension. We hypothesize that people will participate in demonstrations or other forms of protest, to a higher extent if they are afraid of rejection, but only if they feel that they have high social support for their own position. This hypothesis was supported in an online survey
experiment where social support was manipulated. Results also revealed that individuals
who were highly rejection sensitive were among the most likely to participate even though
they did not believe protest activity to be an efficient way to bring about social change.
This supports the notion that some individuals tend to engage in protest activity for
purely social reasons. However it is still unclear whether these individuals are driven
by an approach motivation to establish new social bonds or an avoidance motivation to
escape possible social rejection.
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