The focus of this research is in the area of behavioral economics, with a concentration on the decision-making process of individuals who may potentially participate in an aggravated collective action. Such a study is important as it sheds light on the motivations behind the actions taken by individual rioters and thus the riotous group. This provides an understanding of the evolution of a riot as well as an evaluation of the costs and benefits it generates. The research approach adopted in this study includes a review and interpretation of quantitative data from a historic riot, and the development of a model for the decision-making process of a potential rioter. The findings from this research provide evidence that individual rioters’ assessment of costs and benefits is dependent on the number of individuals rioting. Furthermore, an individual evaluates differently under a sufficient level of stress due to reduced cognitive abilities. Reduced abilities cause a short-sidedness in the individual’s evaluation and decision-making process. The result is that an individual will be biased towards the variables representing short-run benefits which are dominated by intuitive reasoning. This leads to the utility seeking individual being more likely to choose participation. In sum, the main conclusion drawn from this study is that the act of rioting can be deemed as a rational choice in economic terms. This work recommends that further research be conducted in this area. Specifically, that further inquiries be made into the rationality of aggravated collective action and that experimental research be conducted so that the model presented here can be tested and further examined.
Keywords: Riot, Collective behavior, Rational choice theory, Conditional decision theory, Threshold model, Dual-processing model, Effects of stressors, Behavioral economics, Decision-making model, Group dynamics