Kurt Lewin Institute Conference 2016

Täuber, S. (Invited speaker)

Activity: Talk and presentationAcademic event Academic


In this paper, I outline how a more positive focus on inaction advances both our understanding of reality and our theorizing about intergroup relations. I use the phenomenon of disadvantaged groups’ refusal to seek and accept help from the outgroup to illustrate my point. This phenomenon has received little research attention to date, which I argue is partly because social psychologists tend to explain inaction in terms of defects: Because collective action is perceived as the optimal response to disadvantage, inaction is thought of as an anomaly that cannot possibly serve identity issues. This has led to explanations for inaction in terms of social creativity, ideologies such as system justification, and belief systems such as belief in a just world. I argue that these explanations fall short of taking into account the strategic motives underlying inaction. Specifically, I will provide examples of research showing that inaction can be a collective act of identity performance. This has important implications for how we as a discipline analyze and interpret disadvantaged groups’ inaction. I hope that my analysis inspires social psychologists to employ a different attitude towards inaction: Rather than dismissing inaction as an anomaly, it should be examined as an act of identity performance and as psychological resistance to disadvantage. I will finalize this talk by drafting an agenda for future research revolving around purposes strategic inaction might serve (consolidation or mobilization), its potential for empowerment, and the dynamics that it is likely to elicit in a social system.
Event titleKurt Lewin Institute Conference 2016: null
Event typeConference
LocationZeist, Netherlands


  • inaction
  • identity performance
  • psychological resistance