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A social identity model of riot diffusion: From injustice to empowerment in the 2011 London riots




Previous research has shown that riots spread across multiple locations, but has not explained underlying psychological processes. We examined rioting in three locations during the August 2011 disorders in England to test a social identity model of riot diffusion. We triangulated multiple sources to construct a narrative of events; and we analysed interviews with 68 participants to examine experiences. In line with the model, we found evidence for two pathways of influence: “cognitive” and “strategic”. For some participants, previous rioting was highly self-relevant, and shared identity was the basis of their subsequent involvement. For others, previous rioting was empowering because it demonstrated the vulnerability of a common enemy (the police). In each location, interaction dynamics mediated the link between initial perceptions and collective action. The utility of this social identity approach is that it is able to account for both the boundaries and the sequence of urban riot diffusion.

Acceptance Date Nov 28, 2019
Publication Date Dec 2, 2019
Journal European Journal of Social Psychology
Print ISSN 0046-2772
Publisher Wiley
Keywords riots, social identity, social influence, contagion, collective empowerment, collective action
Publisher URL