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The Mobilizing Power Of Grievances: Applying Loss Aversion And Omission Bias To Social Movements
This study investigates how the nature of grievances can provide advantages or disadvantages to social movements. I use an experimental design to test the effects of loss aversion and omission bias on people’s reactions toward grievances and the campaigns that seek to address them. The results indicate that grievances involving a loss are perceived as more immoral, unjust, and important than grievances involving a gain. Loss-based grievances also generate stronger emotions, increase willingness to engage in activism, and produce perceptions of greater public support. Similarly, grievances resulting from a commission (action), as compared to an omission (inaction), are seen as more immoral, unjust, and important. Commission-based grievances direct attribution of blame toward perpetrators, evoke higher levels of emotions, and increase willingness to participate in campaigns. These findings provide support for the idea that not all grievances are created equal in their ability to appeal to and potentially mobilize the public.