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Societal discontent as a catalyst for action

Explaining protest and solidarity, why we help and protest
PhD ceremony:Mr F.C. (Frank) Gootjes
When:April 13, 2023
Supervisors:prof. dr. E.H. (Ernestine) Gordijn, prof. dr. T.T. (Tom) Postmes
Co-supervisor:T. (Toon) Kuppens, Dr
Where:Academy building RUG
Faculty:Behavioural and Social Sciences
Societal discontent as a catalyst for action

Throughout modern democracies, citizens are concerned with how their society is functioning. They frequently lament an erosion of moral norms, voice a lack of trust in the government, and believe society is in decline. They are worried about the collective “us” which they perceive as disintegrating, as about to collapse in the near future. This dissertation aims to further develop the current understanding of societal discontent as a psychological construct: how can this societal discontent be described and what consequences does it have for behaviour? Societal discontent appears to play an important role in how people perceive events in society. In this dissertation, each chapter contributes to understanding this phenomenon by focusing on different aspects of societal discontent: what is societal discontent, how does it influence the reaction to societal events, and which behaviours is it related to. Based on the chapters, I conclude that societal discontent can be best described as a negative sentiment about society at large which colours the interpretation of societal events by linking the event to the broad sentiment about society. This way, it amplifies the response to the societal event and can act as a catalyst for behaviour.