Little is known about how activists and non-activists perceive and evaluate each other. This is important because activists often depend on societal support to achieve their goals. We examined these perceptions and evaluations in three field experiments set in different contexts, i.e., student protests in the Netherlands 2014/2015 (Study 1, activist sample N = 190; Study 2, non-activist sample N = 145), and environmental protests in Paris in 2015 (Study 3, activist sample N = 112). Through a scenario method, we manipulated the motivations expressed for (in)action by a member of the other group (i.e., an activist or non-activist) and measured individuals’ perceptions and evaluations. Findings showed that activists perceived a non-activist as selfish and felt personally distant to them, especially when a non-activist dismissed moral obligation for action (Study 1 and 3). By contrast, non-activists had a rather positive view of activists, especially in response to an activist communicating collective concerns for action (Study 2). Study 4 (N = 103) further supported this pattern of findings by showing that activists perceived larger intergroup differences than non-activists. We conclude that mutual perceptions and evaluations of activists and non-activists are asymmetrical, which may have (negative) consequences for mobilization for social change.
Kutlaca, M., van Zomeren, M., & Epstude, K. (2020). Friends or foes? How activists and non-activists perceive and evaluate each other. PLoS ONE, 15(4), Article e0230918. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0230918