Book chapter

Political and Psychological Processes in Political Action (2020)

in: Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics


Social change sometimes happens because groups in society make it happen. The social psychology of such "man-made" change in political contexts studies the key psychological and political processes that play an important role in driving such change. Theory and research have focused on political processes as conditions that foster change but also on the psychological processes that describe how a structural potential for change translates into political action, which puts pressure on political decision makers toward social change. This yields important scientific insights into how political action occurs and thus may affect political decision making.As for political processes, one relevant model is McAdam's political process model, which identifies a number of structural factors that increase the potential for political action to achieve social change. As for psychological processes, one relevant model is the Social Identity Model of Collective Action, which identifies a number of core motivations for political action, and which seeks to integrate psychological insights with political models of social change. A joint discussion of these models offers hope and scope for further theoretical and empirical integration, as well as a broader and more comprehensive understanding of political and psychological processes in political action toward social change.