“We had a lot of fun”: Psychological rewards of white supremacy group membership

Hanna Paalgard Munden, John Morrison

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White supremacist organizations pose a serious and growing threat to democracy and public safety. This article analyzes nonideological ways in which these groups attract and maintain membership. The primary data comprises interviews with 15 former white supremacist group members. Each was asked about their experience of group participation and exit. Interview data were analysed via thematic analysis. Five distinct themes emerged: belonging, perceived importance, empowerment, emotional intensity, and long-term psychological rewards. Based on the analysis, it is argued that group membership maintenance can be partially explained by psychologically rewarding experiences that may, for them, seem difficult to attain elsewhere. The analysis is consistent with the assumptions of the good lives model, a strength-based approach to the rehabilitation of criminal offenders. This model provides a theoretical way forward in the understanding and prevention of (re)engagement through the promotion of prosocial ways of achieving the psychological rewards that are important to the individual and that membership of white supremacy groups offers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
Number of pages17
JournalPolitical Psychology
Early online date29 May 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 May 2024
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited and is not used for commercial purposes.


The FORMERS project from which many of the informants were recruited was funded by two private Norwegian foundations: ‘Fritt Ord’ and ‘Gjensidigestiftelsen’.


  • P/CVE
  • psychological rewards
  • the good lives model
  • white supremacy


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