Motives, Benefits, and Sacred Values: Examining the Psychology of Nonviolent Action and Violent Extremism


A methodologically experimental survey of participants in the nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria known as the Hirak sought to uncover motivations for and benefits of participating in nonviolent resistance movements, a topic infrequently studied in the literature. A comparison of the results with the much more amply studied psychosocial dynamics of participation in violent extremism showed alignment on certain dimensions, such as a view of the movement’s goal as an uncompromisable “sacred value,” yet little of violent extremism’s negative motivations appeared among the survey respondents’ answers. The results of the survey, while preliminary, suggest ways in which policymakers and peace practitioners can both focus on enhancing recruitment and retention of nonviolent movement participants and help make nonviolent action an attractive substitute for those psychologically vulnerable to participation in violent extremism.

United States Institute of Peace Peaceworks 179
Jonathan Pinckney
Jonathan Pinckney
Assistant Professor

My research interests include civil resistance, democratization, and peacebuilding.