A social identity model of riot diffusion: From injustice to empowerment in the 2011 London riots

John Drury, Clifford Stott, Roger Ball, Stephen Reicher, Fergus Neville, Linda Bell, Mikey Biddlestone, Sanjeedah Choudhury, Max Lovell, Caoimhe Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Previous research has shown that riots spread across multiple locations, but has not explained underlying psychological processes. We examined rioting in three locations during the August 2011 disorders in England to test a social identity model of riot diffusion. We triangulated multiple sources to construct a narrative of events; and we analysed interviews with 68 participants to examine experiences. In line with the model, we found evidence for two pathways of influence: “cognitive” and “strategic”. For some participants, previous rioting was highly self-relevant, and shared identity was the basis of their subsequent involvement. For others, previous rioting was empowering because it demonstrated the vulnerability of a common enemy (the police). In each location, interaction dynamics mediated the link between initial perceptions and collective action. The utility of this social identity approach is that it is able to account for both the boundaries and the sequence of urban riot diffusion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)646-661
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date2 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020


  • collective action
  • collective empowerment
  • contagion
  • riots
  • social identity
  • social influence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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