The Role Of Hope In Promoting Participation In Collective Action

What leads people who are not social or political activists to engage in collective action to change a situation for the better? Previous research on collective action has focused on the concept of group efficacy, the belief that the group to which one belongs has the ability, as a unified group, to create change. However, this research generally focuses on situations in which hope is high and assumes that change is possible.

This paper, however, focused on what happens in situations in which hope is not high — when people perceive change to be impossible. We hypothesized that in such cases, efficacy would not drive motivation to engage in collective action, or, in other words, that hope is a precondition for the influence of efficacy on action.

In order to test this, we ran three experiments in three distinct and relevant contexts. Study 1 was conducted within the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a context manifesting low hope. We recruited 103 Israeli participants via an online survey company and, after measuring everyone’s levels of hope for peace, we randomly divided them into two groups. One group read a text increasing their group efficacy beliefs (by telling them that their group has the ability to promote change through unified action), while the other read a text decreasing such beliefs. We then measured their willingness to take part in a list of activities to create change in the current situation. Results showed that increasing or decreasing a feeling of efficacy did not make a difference in people’s motivation to take part in collective action.

Study 2 was conducted in an ambiguous context, the privatization of the NHS in the United Kingdom. We recruited 196 participants using Prolific Academic and divided them randomly into 4 groups, combining two manipulation: hope (by telling participants that reversing the privatization process was either possible or not possible), and efficacy (by telling participants that the British public either has or does not have the ability to promote change through unified action). As in the previous study, we then measured their willingness to take part in a list of activities to create change in the current situation. Results showed that the high group efficacy manipulation led participants to be more motivated to take part in collective action, but only when hope was high. When hope was low, group efficacy did not lead to any change in people’s attitudes. In other words, group efficacy was relevant only when people believed that there was hope for change in the first place.

Lastly, Study 3 was run in the context of attitudes toward gun control reform in the United States. We conducted the study soon after the Las Vegas mass shooting (October 1, 2017), making this context very relevant. We recruited 249 liberal American participants using Amazon Mechanical Turk, using the same method as the previous study. Results showed that once again, increasing group efficacy beliefs led participants to be more motivated to engage in collective action to promote gun reform, but only when hope for change was induced. When hope was low, group efficacy became irrelevant to their willingness to engage in unified action.

Overall, this research revealed the importance of hope in promoting participation in collective action. Group efficacy induced action motivation (as previous research has shown), but only when hope for change was high. In other words, hope serves a precondition to the effectivity of group efficacy.

These findings are described in the article entitled Yes we can? Group efficacy beliefs predict collective action, but only when hope is high, recently published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.

About The Author

Smadar Cohen-Chen

Smadar Cohen-Chen is a lecturer (assistant professor) at the Surrey Business School, University of Surrey.

I received my Ph.D. in Social Psychology from the University of Sheffield in 2015, supervised by Professors Richard Crisp and Eran Halperin. I then held a position as a visiting assistant professor in the Dispute Resolution Research Center, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

My research focuses on how emotions influence intergroup relations and conflict, as well as ways to regulate these emotions. In particular, I study the role of hope in social contexts, including conflict and intergroup relations, collective action and civil engagement, negotiations, and decision making. Along these lines, I develop experimental techniques to induce and regulate hope. 

Speak Your Mind!


Understanding Obesity One Adipocyte At A Time

As the rate of obesity and overweight increases worldwide at an alarming rate, the quest goes on to find new therapeutics targeting obesity-associated disorders, including type-2 diabetes, insulin resistance, fatty liver disease,¬†and cardiovascular events. White adipose tissue, our major nutrient-storing organ, has been shown to be at the heart of obesity-associated pathologies (Lotta et al., […]

Peptides As A Potential Treatment Against Leishmaniasis

Leishmaniasis is a very serious group of diseases, and are caused by more than 20 species of protozoan parasites belonging to the genus of Leishmania. Epidemiological surveillance reveals that more than 350 million people in 98 countries are at potential risk of infection, which makes Leishmaniasis one of the six endemic diseases considered as high […]

Google’s New Earbuds Auto-Translate 40 Languages Thanks to Machine Learning

, viVery often it is only a matter of time before something in science-fiction becomes science-fact. This past week tech giant Google held an event in San Francisco where it unveiled products like the Google Home Mini, a new Chromebook, and its new version of the Google Pixel phone. One of the most intriguing announcements […]

Can Bell’s Theorem Be Disproved?

Bell‚Äôs theorem (BT) was formulated in 1964 as a continuation of the 1935 Einstein, Podolski, Rosen (EPR) criticism on the completeness of quantum mechanics (QM). Based on the principle of locality, i.e., instantaneous spooky actions at a distance are not allowed, EPR showed through a thought experiment that QM was an incomplete theory in the […]

Nanotechnology For Sensitive Detection Of The Carcinoembryonic Antigen: A Cancer Biomarker

The carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) is one of the most important clinical cancer biomarkers.¬† It is reported that an increase in the concentration of CEA in adult plasma may be an early indication of a number of cancerous diseases, including colon tumors, breast tumors, ovarian carcinoma, colorectal cancer, and cystadenocarcinoma. Since raised levels of plasma CEA […]

Harnessing The Power Of Rural Youth Has The Biggest Potential For Poverty Reduction

Kamal, 22, a seasonal farmer and a local of Gafargaon Upazila in the Mymensingh district, is leaving his home in the hopes of making his family financially solvent. His dreams are high, as he plans to be a migrant worker in Malaysia. Increasing unemployment and social pressure to take responsibility for his family are making […]

Can VR Be Used To Fix Social Media’s Problems?

It’s no secret that too much time spent on social media can be bad for you. Even with the benefits that social media use brings to the table, plenty of research has shown that spending time on social media can lead to a variety of problems. Usage of social media has been correlated with increased […]