Relative deprivation and attribution: From grievance to action

Iain WALKER, Ngai Kin Wong, Kerry Kretzschmar

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookChapterpeer-review


Relative deprivation theory belongs to a family of social evaluation theories (Pettigrew, 1967) that have as their common bond a focus on the social comparative nature of social judgments. The core of the relative deprivation (RD) construct is that when people's expectations about the goods and conditions of life to which they believe they are entitled are thwarted, they become angry and are motivated to redress the perceived inequity. Judgments about entitlements can only be made relatively – people compare their current or anticipated outcomes with those of other individuals or groups. Unfortunately, as with most members of the family of social evaluation theories, when RD theory has been applied to major social issues, it has typically been in a post hoc manner. As a theory, it will only mature if it lends itself to prediction, rather than retrospection. This point has been made for several decades now. One reason why RD theory has been applied retrospectively more than prospectively is the relative absence of testable models linking the perception of deprivation, through various mediators, to behavioral outcomes. In this chapter we attempt to specify such a model. The model we suggest integrates Folger's Referent Cognition Theory (RCT) of RD (Folger, 1984, 1986, 1987; Mark & Folger, 1984) and Weiner's version of attribution theory (1985, 1986, 1995). We begin by describing RCT, and claim that it is a general, useful, and parsimonious model of RD.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRelative deprivation theory:
Subtitle of host publicationSpecification, development, and integration
EditorsIain Walker, Heather Smith
PublisherCambridge Univeristy Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9780511527753
ISBN (Print)9780521180696
Publication statusPublished - 2002


Dive into the research topics of 'Relative deprivation and attribution: From grievance to action'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this