Social Psychological Influences on Participation in Online Collective Actions Public Deposited

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  • March 22, 2019
  • McClellan, Autumn
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology
  • Social networking sites and other internet-enabled technologies have had broad-reaching effects on American society, including effects on the nature of participation in social movement activities. This dissertation provides a quantitative evaluation of the impact of social psychological perceptions – such as collective identity, efficacy, and motivations – on individuals’ decision to participation in various forms of online collective actions. These two forms of action – labelled “collective action” and “connective action” – are differentiated by their underlying strategies for organizing, with the former being more likely to rely on organizations and centralized decision-making whereas the latter emerges from individuals’ self-expression using densely-connected online networks that exhibits a level of mass resonance (or “virality”). Social movements characterized by a strategy of “collective action” have been widely studied prior to the ubiquity of the internet; however, participation in “connective action” is less understood. Analyses are based on survey data gathered from convenience samples of students at a large public university and from Workers on’s Mechanical Turk. Survey items include indicators of collective identity (politicized and autonomous), efficacy (self-efficacy, collective efficacy, and tactical efficacy), and motivations (intrinsic and extrinsic). Respondents viewed Facebook posts that exemplify the strategies of “collective action” and “connective action,” and reported the likelihood of engaging with those posts. Results indicate that participation in “collective action” is associated with a politicized collective identity, support for traditional tactics, and both types of motivation but particularly extrinsic motivation. Participation in “connective action” is most strongly associated with extrinsic motivations and support for tactics that allow for greater self-expression, although there is some evidence that an autonomous collective identity is associated with this type of participation as well. This dissertation offers several unique contributions, including an attempt to measure an autonomous collective identity and introducing the concept of tactical efficacy. It also contributes to the burgeoning literature on “connective actions” and the application of motivations to social movement participation. This work is the beginning of a research agenda which seeks to better understand the dynamics of online social movements through bringing together theoretical contributions from sociology, political science, psychology, communications, and other disciplines.
Date of publication
Resource type
  • Andrews, Kenneth
  • Weisshaar, Kate
  • Caren, Neal
  • Mouw, Ted
  • Zimmer, Catherine
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2018

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