Will It Teach Them a Lesson? Validating a Measure of Retributive Efficacy in Social Issue Activism

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3 Scopus citations


The public and policymakers have increasingly recognized the role that industry plays in contributing to societal issues, such as climate change and childhood obesity. In fact, many people now support punitive action against major corporations. The question then becomes: What beliefs factor into a person’s willingness to take political action against industry actors? I argue that one important predictor may be beliefs about whether the action will be effective at punishing the wrongdoer—a new concept I introduce called retributive efficacy. The goal of this investigation was to assess the psychometric properties of a novel measure of retributive efficacy. Across three studies and two social issues (climate change, childhood obesity), I demonstrate the reliability and validity of a retributive efficacy survey instrument. Specifically, I show that retributive efficacy is associated with (but is distinct from) other types of efficacy. I also provide evidence that retributive efficacy predicts intentions to participate in social issue activism and support for social policies, even when adjusting for the influence of demographics, covariates, and other forms of efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1559-1582
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number4
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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