Slides and paper from APSA paper on "An agent-based model of protest diffusion and thresholds"

Slides from our 2021 American Political Science Association presentation, work by Stephanie Dornschneider and Bruce Edmonds, based on the model at

This paper presents an agent-based model of protest diffusion and thresholds, developed from ethnographic interviews with dissidents in two repressive settings in the context of the Arab Spring. Previous qualitative analyses and related ethnographic interviews have established that dissidents in these settings are motivated by the behavior of others in their environment, combined with positive emotions of hope, courage, solidarity, and pride (Dornschneider 2019). This brings in the individual perspective to more context-based explanations of protest behavior. While a range of theories exists about the conditions under which protest is more likely, few explain the variation between individuals within the same context in terms of their protest behavior.

In this paper, we take the next step towards developing a new theory of protest behavior by investigating an agent-based model , where the rules of behavior of the model are derived from the qualitative analyses (cf. Edmonds 2015). We apply the model to examine theories on protest diffusion and thresholds (Granovetter 1978), according to which protest decisions depend on the number of preceding protest decisions by others. Our application identifies four protest thresholds that complement the existing literature by specifying when 1) individuals begin to mobilize; 2) a critical mass shows up for protest; 3) mass protest occurs; and 4) protest declines.