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RCGD Winter Seminar Series: Overperception of moral outrage in online social networks inflates beliefs about intergroup hostility

William J. Brady
Monday, January 23, 2023
3:30-5:00 PM
1430 Institute For Social Research Map
Overperception of moral outrage in online social networks inflates beliefs about intergroup hostility
Monday, January 23, 2023 (3:30 PM – 5:00 PM)

William J. Brady
Assistant Professor
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University

As individuals and political leaders increasingly take to online networks for social interactions, it is important to understand how the platforms that host them can shape social knowledge of morality and politics. In this work, I propose that features of social media environments including dysfunctional human-algorithm interactions may be conducive to misperceptions of moral emotions at the individual and group level with consequences for intergroup conflict. Utilizing a Twitter field survey, I measured authors’ outrage in real time and compared author reports to judgments made by observers. I find that social media users tend to overperceive moral outrage expression at the individual-level, inferring more intense outrage experiences from messages than the authors of those messages themselves actually report. Individual-level overperceptions were also associated with greater social media use to learn about politics. Follow-up experiments find that these individual misperceptions cause misperceptions of collective outrage, which also amplifies perceptions of hostile communication norms, group affective polarization and ideological extremity. Together, these results highlight how individual-level misperceptions of online emotions produce collective misperceptions that have the potential to exacerbate intergroup conflict. I end considerations for content moderation on digital social platforms.

The U.S. is experiencing unprecedented levels of political polarization relative to the past few decades, especially in terms of affective polarization, or feelings of dislike and distrust towards members of the opposing political party. In this winter talk series, we will hear from experts across disciplines (social psychology, political science, sociology, communication) in order to better understand why political polarization is so high and what, if anything, can we do about it.

RCGD Seminars will be held at ISR Thompson 1430. Events will be recorded. Graduate seminars precede the events from 2-3:30. To meet with external speakers or to find out more about these events, contact Rachael Hamilton at
Building: Institute For Social Research
Event Type: Workshop / Seminar
Tags: american culture, Media, Political Science, Politics, Psychology, Research, Social Sciences, Sociology
Source: Happening @ Michigan from Research Center for Group Dynamics (RCGD), Institute for Social Research, Department of Political Science