Ethan Bueno de Mesquita, Mehdi Shadmehr

Motivation and Repression

We examine how variation in motivations affect the resilience of movements to repression. Groups whose members are materially rather than psychologically motivated are less affected by both targeted and indiscriminate repression, but are also less able to turn early failures into future successes. A key distinction we draw is that material rewards are rival while psychological rewards are non-rival. Rivalry of material rewards introduces congestion externalities to the coordination problem of collective action: repression that decreases the likelihood of success also decreases participation, so that each participant’s share of the potential rewards is larger, mitigating the impact of the repression. A government attempting to control a movement should focus on raising participation costs when motivations are psychological and on destroying rewards when motivations are material.

Working Paper

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The University of Chicago