Dominic Packer

Loyal Deviance: Investigating the Motivational Dynamics of Dissent Decisions and Social Change

November 7, 2013


Before social movements develop, small minorities – sometimes of one – start by raising issues and criticizing their groups.  Although often glorified in the abstract and sometimes admired after the fact, dissent is typically met in the moment with suspicion, denigration, even material or physical punishment.  These reactions are predictable from standard theories of group functioning, but they raise a puzzle: given the costs often associated with dissent, why does anyone do it? 

Dr. Packer will present a framework, the normative conflict model, which proposes that a key to understanding dissent decisions lies in collective identification - the extent to which individuals feel invested in and self-categorize as members of a group.  Empirical work in support of the model has shown that although strongly identified members are generally motivated to perceive and present their group in the most positive possible light, they are willing to challenge social norms and to criticize their group when they believe it to be in the collective interest.  Recent experiments shed further light on the motivational dynamics of dissent decisions, demonstrating that identified and conscientious group members are more likely to dissent when goals that emphasize the need for social change vs. social stability are salient, when influence is possible, and when they possess sufficient self-regulatory resources.


Dominic Packer is an Assistant Professor and the Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Psychology at Lehigh University.  His research investigates the mental processes that enable humans to live collectively, with particular interest how they facilitate or inhibit social change. His lab conducts studies to better understand the social cognitive and neural processes that underlie conformity and dissent, intergroup biases, and moral decision-making.  Dominic’s research is currently funded by the National Science Foundation, the John Templeton Foundation, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and a Collaborative Opportunity Research Grant from Lehigh University. Dominic also serves as an Associate Editor at the Journal of Applied Social Psychology.  More information about his research can be found at: