The Psychology of Protest.

Whats the point in protesting at all?

It’s important to protest against the violation of principles we believe in such as racial, social, gender and religious equality, freedom of speech, freedom of the press etc, not because we foolishly believe this will make elected politicians rethink their policies or reverse their decisions, but because of the message it sends to other people.

It sends a message to other countries who can then see that our country isn’t necessarily defined by the views and actions of the leading political party of that time.

It sends a message to our fellow citizens to assure each other that whilst we can live detached and varied lives from one another, we still share common values, passions and beliefs that uphold the value of human life. We are more similar than we are different.

It sends a message to any younger people paying attention, that these are important principles to cultivate and preserve and worth leaving the house on a cold night for to beat the drum about even when the powers that be probably aren’t listening.

It sends an important message to any individuals or groups who may be feeling singled out and unwanted that not all people think this way and not to feel that the few who do (or perhaps not as few as we’d like to think) do not necessarily represent the majority.

But it also sends a message to ourselves, because psychologically when we make a statement or act upon something, we create an identity around what this is and become compelled to stand by it.

Charities use this all the time by first asking us “Are you the sort of person who would like to help people less fortunate than yourself?” Once you proudly agree that you are, it becomes far harder to say no to whatever they ask of you. Bastards.

It’s the same as when we have a fiery argument with someone, and even when they perhaps seem to be right we still (foolishly) fight to the death because we have mistakenly identified with our original opinions. (Read any large YouTube comment thread for examples. These almost always adhere to Godwins Law)

It’s a fundamental part of our psychology and one that can work for us or against us.

In this way I feel it can be used positively, because if you publicly declare what you believe in, you reaffirm this to yourself and are much more likely to stand up for these values in day to day life.


Neb is a full time London Magician and Mindreader based in Soho

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