Appearances can be deceptive: Self-selection, social group identification, and political mobilization

Scott Sigmund Gartner, Gary M. Segura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This paper focuses on two neglected facets of political mobilization among members of repressed social groups: some people pay costs for membership in advance of any political activity; and external recognition of an individual as a group member is uncertain. Using these propositions, we create a rational choice, decision-theoretic model of the choices to identify and mobilize with three major implications. First, we should expect to observe a higher degree of mobilization from the self-identified members of invisible groups, such as atheists and gays, than from the entire population of visible groups, such as women and racial minorities. But, this apparent higher level of mobilization is an artifact of a self-selection process; when comparing true total group populations, invisible group members actually mobilize at lower rates. This result addresses the apparent problem that, frequently, more people appear to be politically active than would be expected from collective action theorists' 'five percent Rule'. Second, most attempts to root out and repress invisible groups are likely to lead to greater mobilization by members. Third, visible groups are more likely to receive support from non-group members than groups whose membership is unidentifiable, due to the likelihood and consequences of erroneous attribution of group membership to these allies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)131-161
Number of pages31
JournalRationality and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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