Understanding non-normative civil resistance under repression: Evidence from Hong Kong and Chile

Mengyao Li*, Aya Adra, Samson Yuen, Salvador Vargas Salfate, Ka Ming Chan, Anna Baumert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


The present research examined the psychological processes underlying engagement in non-normative forms of resistance and the role of repression. We conducted two studies in the contexts of two distinct social movements, both characterized by high levels of repression— the Anti-Extradition Law Amendment Bill Movement in Hong Kong and the “Chilean Spring” protests of 2019–2020. First, we tested whether non-normative resistance was motivated by (1) moralization of non-normative actions (moralization hypothesis), (2) perceived low efficacy of normative actions and lack of hope (nothing-to-lose hypothesis), or (3) perceived efficacy of non-normative actions in achieving movement goals (strategic choice hypothesis). Our results provided converging evidence for the moralization and strategic choice hypotheses, but not the nothing-to-lose hypothesis. Furthermore, we proposed and provided evidence for a model of movement escalation, whereby experiences of police violence predicted stronger willingness to engage in future non-normative actions via heightened motivations for non-normative resistance and increased risk perceptions. Taken together, these findings illuminate that repression in the form of coercive police violence may be ineffective in quelling social unrest. Rather, it can contribute to the radicalization of protesters. Potential boundary conditions and cross-contextual generalizability of the current results are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-515
Number of pages23
JournalPolitical Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date4 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science and International Relations

User-Defined Keywords

  • radicalization
  • repression
  • resistance and collective action
  • risk perception
  • social movement


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