Examining Anger’s Immobilizing Effect on Institutional Insiders’ Action Intentions in Social Movements

Katherine A. DeCelles*, Scott Sonenshein, Brayden G. King

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


We theorize that anger incited by a social movement, which has a mobilizing effect among outsider activists, might immobilize collective action intentions for institutional insiders—those sympathetic to the movement and employed by its target. We conducted initial field surveys across a spectrum of social movements, including Occupy Wall Street and #metoo, as well as those related to business sustainability and gun control, which showed that institutional insiders are often just as angry as outsider activists. But the evidence from those surveys did not show that social movement anger translated into collective action intentions among institutional insiders. We tested our theory deductively with an experiment conducted with participants who were supportive of social movement issues in their organizations. Overall, our results show that anger about a social movement issue relates to greater collective action intentions among outsider activists but not among institutional insiders. Instead of anger emboldening institutional insiders to act despite the potential costs, anger triggers fear about the potential negative consequences of collective action in the workplace, which in turn results in withdrawal. While social movements often rely on anger frames to mobilize sympathizers, our work suggests that this practice may paradoxically cause fear that immobilizes those uniquely positioned to be able to influence organizations to change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)847-886
Number of pages40
JournalAdministrative Science Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020


  • collective action
  • insider activism
  • social movements

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration


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