At #APSA2019, @szasulja and I are presenting our research on why online political discussions are perceived as more toxic than offline political discussions. We provide evidence against a common media narrative: The mismatch hypothesis. A thread on our key findings: (1/9)
We use representative surveys from the US and Denmark to document that people at large do indeed perceive online environments as more hostile than offline. In figure, higher values equals more perceived hostility and dark gray plots show distribution for "online debates". (2/9)
The mismatch hypothesis says this reflects a mismatch between (a) a human psychology adapted for face-to-face interaction and (b) the impersonal online environment. We test three versions of the mismatch hypothesis: Mismatched-induced change, selection and perception (3/9)
CHANGE: Do online environments induce hostility because nice people are less able to regulate their emotions online? No. People who report that they are hostile online also report that they are hostile offline. There are no differences across the two context. (4/9)
SELECTION: Are online environments hostile because the setting is attractive to those predisposed for hostility? No. Hostile people (e.g., status-obsessed individuals) talk about politics whenever they can. However, non-hostile individuals do opt out of online debates. (5/9)
PERCEPTION: Do people misinterpret benign intentions as hostile in online debates? No. When asked about own experiences, conflicts online and offline are perceived as equally severe. Using behavioural experiments, we also find no systematic bias in perceptions of SoMe posts (6/9)
What then explains 'the hostility gap'? Rather than psychological mismatches, the gap seems to reflect that the public nature of online discussions exposes people to way more hostile attacks directed against strangers. Offline, these are hidden to the public eye (7/9)
How to guard against online hostility? Online hostility is not an 'accident' but a deliberate strategy pursued by predisposed people. While many might not fall victim to their attacks, these are nonetheless public, shaping overall perceptions. We need to contain such people (8/9)
To hear more come to this panel on Friday, where we and our co-presenters focus on bad stuff happening on the Internet:… (9/9)

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More from @M_B_Petersen

Mar 24
"Truth is 1st casualty of war"

Indeed, our new research shows that misinformation is believed & shared more in conflicts:…

Our case is tragically relevant: Ukraine & conflict between Russia & EU. This conflict can fuel falsehood - on both sides.

🧵 1/8
Our study was conducted among 1,615 Ukrainians prior to Russia's current invasion.

We assessed how Ukrainians perception of a conflict between Ukraine & Russia shaped their motivations to believe & share false denigrating news stories. 2/8
Participants were presented with 3 false denigrating news about either Russia, the EU - or, as control condition without relevance for the conflict, Tanzania. We then asked about whether participants believed the stories to be true & whether they might share them online. 3/8 Image
Read 8 tweets
Feb 20
The take-home message from the debate on Bing AI is not how easily AI now passes the Turing Test.

It is how easily *we* fail it: Falsely perceiving AI as human conscious intelligence.

The reason is a well-established psychological effect: Hyperactive agency detection.

🧵 1/5
The concept of hyperactive agency detection was coined in 2003 to describe how we ascribe intentions to the movements of simple geometric shapes:… 2/5
Psychologically, this disposition reflects the ultrasociality of the human species.

In the environment of our ancestors, the costs of failing to detect agents & the (then) low cost of wrongly detecting them selected for hypersensitivity in this domain. 3/5
Read 5 tweets
Feb 19

"Some men just want to watch the world burn", said Alfred about the Joker. Do you feel this is true in politics too?

In @apsrjournal, we provide evidence of a "Need for Chaos" in the US electorate & dissect its causes & consequences:…

🧵 1/17
Partisan polarization is often seen as the core of US political instability (& associated perils such as misinformation). But the US also face greater inequality & exclusionary processes. As such, many may feel abandoned not by one party but by the *entire* political system. 2/17
A need to "burn it all down" is, we argue, activated when status-oriented individuals face strong marginalization. To gain status, a strategy of generalized, displaced aggression is triggered. It is the political equivalent of "running amok" in the face of status loss. 3/17
Read 17 tweets
Feb 16
How did COVID-19 polarize societies across the world?

In @HopeProject_dk, we began our research on the societal impact of the pandemic in March 2020.

After 3 years of research & 500.000+ interviews, it is now possible to write the 3 act story of pandemic polarization.

🧵 1/26
Let me set the scene as the pandemic hit.

The Western world were already growning less stable. Economic inequality - a driver of instability (…) - was rising. Psychologically, inequality breeds distrust in core institutions ( 2/26
The financial crisis furthered this, leading to a populist backlash (…). And, in the age of social media, those distrusting the authorities could more easily coordinate & share than ever (…). 3/26
Read 26 tweets
Dec 8, 2022
🚨Out in @Nature🚨

Across the world, we find substantial prejudice against those not vaccinated against COVID-19 with antipathy, stereotypes & support for exclusion from family & political rights:…

Unvaccinated themselves harbor little prejudice.

🧵 1/17
The unvaxxed have faced moralizing rhetoric from elites (…) & condemnation from other citizens (…). As result, the unvaxxed have felt pressured (…). 2/17
These dynamics may reflect anti-free-rider sentiments. Vaccination is a public good and prior research shows that, as result, the vaxxed are less generous towards those who opt out of vaccination (i.e., free-ride) (…). 3/17
Read 17 tweets
Nov 23, 2022
The @WHO feared that "pandemic fatigue" led to disregard of health advice

In @PNASNews, we show that fatigue had effects far beyond the health domain. It fueled mistrust, protest & conspiracy beliefs:…

A pandemic is far more than a health crisis.

🧵 1/14 Image
The concept of "fatigue" has been hotly debated as it was, e.g., used by the UK government to delay their 1st lockdown (…). Some argue it doesn't exist. Others that it cannot be disentangled from a mere lack of motivation. 2/14
We argue that "pandemic fatigue" is real & conceptualize it as emerging from the *costs of compliance*. It is not just a lack of motivation but the result of trying to comply (similar to "compassion fatigue" emerging from the costs of caring:…) 3/14
Read 14 tweets

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