The Evolution of Collective Action in a Developing Neighborhood

The most pertinent challenge for protest research is to overcome issues of causality. Take the relation between efficacy, embeddedness and protest. Based on social capital theories, it is argued that more embedded people feel more efficacious and thus protest more. However, are efficacious people more inclined to become members of organizations or do people become more efficacious in their networks? We simply do not know. Social psychologists attempt to overcome the problem of causality by experimental methods. These experiments have a high internal validity, and the potential to make strong causal statements. However, laboratory experiments are detached from natural settings resulting in low ecological validity. We seek to address this issue of causality in a longitudinal field-study in a natural setting; data was collected in a newly built neighborhood.

Within approximately a month of their arrival inhabitants received a questionnaire pursued by five follow-up surveys. These questionnaires asses changes in social network, grievances, political trust, efficacy and/ or cynicism, identification, (in)formal and virtual embeddedness, emotions, protest-intentions/participation. Important―in terms of causality―individual and relational changes are mapped through time while all social relations start from scratch. As such we examine how a (growing) social network inhibit or augment predictors of protest participation such as identification, grievances, and emotions. We expect that protest intentions emerge through confirmatory feedback from the social network, which is self-selected through time. Tie strength will grow between people who are in agreement on e.g. grievances in the neighborhood. Therefore, we expect that mapping feedback cycles provides an emergent account of protest. At this time we are collecting data from the fifth survey and are writing our first article.


  • Natasha Anikina, research master in Social Psychology,