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The nature of public action: social environments, psychological traits and mobilization

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Title: The nature of public action: social environments, psychological traits and mobilization
Author(s): Bloeser, Andrew
Director of Research: Mondak, Jeffery J.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Mondak, Jeffery J.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Kuklinski, James H.; Rudolph, Thomas J.; Canache, Damarys
Department / Program: Political Science
Discipline: Political Science
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): mobilization personality psychological traits Big Five public
Abstract: When advancing our personal interests and our notions of the common interest, we must often act cooperatively with others to pursue common goals. The challenges that can arise are notorious. Citizens can benefit from outcomes, even if they do not contribute to the public actions that create them. When political goals require the efforts of many, and the benefits to the individual remain uncertain, citizens may refrain from taking action. Of course, if no one takes action, or if too few do, individual and collective interests can go unrealized. Understanding the challenges of mobilization therefore requires addressing the question of motivation. What motivates the individual citizen to participate in collective, public action? For quite some time now, the dominant approach to addressing it has involved looking outward, toward the social processes and environmental conditions that shape the human experience. This approach has fostered a very popular image of the citizen. In this image, the citizen is a blank slate upon which external factors inscribe beliefs, values, and motivations for taking action. Based on this popular image of the citizen, the goal of mobilization is to create incentives and reduce disincentives to participate by changing the social environment the citizen experiences. The central argument of this project is that this popular image must be revised. In addition to looking outward, toward the social environment, we must also look inward by considering how our biologically-linked psychological traits can influence our experience of social processes and environmental conditions. This part of our humanity is often overlooked in discussions of citizenship and public action. However, this project demonstrates that traits not only influence propensities for taking public action, but also influence the likelihood that citizens will be targeted for contact during mobilization efforts. In doing, the project illustrates how psychological traits contribute to the challenges we face in politics and strategies of cooperation that help us meet these challenges. At the core of this project is an analytical framework that is sensitive to how citizen motivations can be influenced by both external, social factors and biologically-linked psychological traits. This framework is applied to examine the mobilization of publics in three different contexts: elections, jury service, and direct action organizing.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34535
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Andrew Bloeser
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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