Dramatic Social Change: A Social Psychological Perspective

Roxane de la Sablonnière, Laura French Bourgeois, Mariam Najih


Dramatic social changes, such as the breakdown of the Soviet Union and the ongoing “Arab Spring” uprisings, are present throughout history and continue to affect millions of people every day. Unfortunately, there is a paucity of empirical ‘real-world’ research due in part to a lack of basic theory that might provide a framework to guide social psychological research. In the present paper, we argue that both psychology generally, and social psychology more specifically, have failed to adequately address the issue of dramatic social change. We argue that there is a need to move towards a new theoretical framework, one that is capable of addressing dramatic societal changes in terms of their impact at the individual level. As a first step toward achieving this goal, the present paper has two main objectives. We first offer a brief review of the extensive literature from the field of sociology, followed by a more in-depth analysis of the more limited psychological literature. Specifically, research on the topics of collective action, relative deprivation, and perceptions of social change are presented. Second, we outline the challenges associated with developing a heuristic framework for the psychology of social change.


collective action; perceptions of social change; psychology of social change; relative deprivation; social change

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