City Research Online

Political motivation: A referent evaluation mathematical model

Rigoli, F. ORCID: 0000-0003-2233-934X (2021). Political motivation: A referent evaluation mathematical model. Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 9(1), pp. 8-23. doi: 10.5964/jspp.5539


Mathematical modelling is popular in cognitive psychology because it enables clear and formal descriptions of the processes at play; yet, this approach has rarely been applied to political psychology. Here we adopt mathematical modelling to develop a theory of political motivation, which is a central concept in political psychology. The theory assumes that, in certain contexts, individuals entertain a set of representations of society, for example of the past, present and future (but also of fictive societies such as utopias). To each representation of society, an incentive value is attached which is not absolute, but (following theories of motivation in cognitive psychology) reference-dependent; namely, dependent on the context, corresponding to the whole set of representations of society. In turn, the model proposes that these subjective values determine two central aspects: a motivation for performing an appropriate political action and the ensuing political mood. We discuss the model with respect to theoretical and empirical research (and we examine Marx and Engel’s communist manifesto as an example of the latter). In short, we offer a new mathematical perspective on political motivation which emphasises the role of multiple representations of society in determining political motivation and the ensuing political mood.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: political motivation, political mood, referent dependent, context effect, mathematical modelling, political action, relative deprivation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
J Political Science
J Political Science > JC Political theory
Q Science > QA Mathematics
R Medicine > RC Internal medicine > RC0321 Neuroscience. Biological psychiatry. Neuropsychiatry
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
[thumbnail of 5539-Article Text-47723-2-10-20210218 (5).pdf]
Text - Published Version
Available under License Creative Commons: Attribution International Public License 4.0.

Download (1MB) | Preview


Add to AnyAdd to TwitterAdd to FacebookAdd to LinkedinAdd to PinterestAdd to Email


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics

Actions (login required)

Admin Login Admin Login