Nice and nasty: The formation of prosocial and hostile social movements

Emma F. Thomas, Laura G.E. Smith, Craig McGarty, Tom Postmes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)


While existing research recognizes the central importance of social identities in motivating participation in social movements, much less is known about the creation of such groups. In this paper we take a social identity perspective and consider the ways that both "nice" (prosocial) and "nasty" (hostile) social movements can be mobilized through the dynamic construction of social identities. We argue that group interaction plays a key role as the medium through which social movements actively construct and negotiate the content of the group membership. This intra-group interaction can result in consensual norms for social action. We argue that by harnessing the power of this identity formation process, one can practically utilize collectives as instruments for positive social change. Conversely, awareness of these processes can also be used to subvert the formation of hostile movements. We thus use our theoretical platform as a basis for suggested interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-55
Number of pages39
JournalRevue Internationale de Psychologie Sociale
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Collective action
  • Participation
  • Social identity
  • Social movement


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