Studie über die Psychologie der Agressivität in Online-Debatten

Studie über die Feindseeligkeit politischer Online-Debatten: The Psychology of Online Political Hostility: A Comprehensive, Cross-National Test of the Mismatch Hypothesis. Die Studie findet keine Änderung im Verhalten der Diskussionspartner, wohl aber a) einen Rückzug von „non-hostile individuals“ aus politischen Debatten, die durch b) eine gesteigerten Sichtbarkeit dieser Debatten abgeschreckt werden.

Der Rückzug von nicht-feindseeligen Menschen aus dem politischen Diskurs erzeugt somit einen Feedback-Loop: Aggressive Teilnehmer in Online-Debatten verdrängen nicht-aggressive User, die Sichtbarkeit dieser aggressiven Debatten wiederum führt zum weiteren Rückzug von nicht-aggressiven Menschen. Die Debatten wirken in der Summe aggressiver, obwohl sich das Verhalten der einzelnen Teilnehmer im Vergleich zu Offline-Debatten nicht ändert: Aggressive Menschen sind aggressiv und nicht-aggressive Menschen nicht. Aber nur eine Gruppe bestimmt die Tonalität des Diskurses und das Internet verdrängt moderate Stimmen, während es gleichzeitig aggressives Verhalten belohnt.

Paper: The Psychology of Online Political Hostility: A Comprehensive, Cross-National Test of the Mismatch Hypothesis // Rolf Degen

We argue that mismatches between human psychology and novel features of online communication environments could (a) change people’s behavior, (b) bias their perceptions and (c) create adverse selection effects. We leverage five cross-national representative surveys and online behavioral experiments (total N=7510) to test the mismatch hypothesis but find little to no evidence. Rather, we find that online political hostility reflects the behavior of individuals predisposed to be hostile in all (including offline) contexts. Yet, because their behavior is more likely to be witnessed on public online platforms, these are perceived to induce more hostility.

Hier ein ausgedehntes Zitat aus dieser mehr als relevanten Studie:

In our offline lives, we know and directly interact with around 150 people (Hill and Dunbar 2003) and discuss politics with only nine of them (Eveland and Hively 2009). Multiple perspectives within psychological science converge on the argument that human psychology – including the mechanisms regulating aggression and hostility – are tailored to the intimate face-to-face interaction that characterizes offline environments; e.g., emphasizing how human psychology is adapted to the life in ancestral small social groups (Hill and Dunbar 2003) or how social strategies are calibrated by direct interactions with parents and peers in early life (Simpson and Belsky 2008). Empirically, a number of studies have also shown that social decisions are heavily shaped by intimate social cues such as facial expressions (Scharlemann et al. 2001) and eye contact (Kurzban 2001). It is therefore likely that the mechanisms responsible for both activating and restraining hostile responses rely on the wealth of cues available in face-to- face interactions.

Online environments are radically different. Written interactions on social media platforms or comments sections clash with inbuilt assumptions of human social cognition in, at least, four interrelated ways. First, there is a lack of the vivid social cues that are available in face-to-face interaction. Despite the abundance of emoticons, gifs and memes, these remain only crude tools to communicate and understand emotions compared to a smiling face, a raised voice or a defeated posture. Second, there is an exceptional possibility of privacy vis-a-vis discussion partners. People on the internet may choose to remain completely anonymous or to display a heavily curated presentation of themselves. Meanwhile, our psychology is adapted to an environment where people carry the burden of their reputation wherever they go. Third, relational mobility is significantly higher in online than in offline environments. Given the large number of potential discussion partners online, people can easily choose to leave one community and join another. This is not the case or, at least, is not easily done in many offline circles. Finally, online interactions are often significantly more public, with other users being able to access the discussion even years after their occurrence, whereas discussions that occur on the savannah or over the dinner table have significantly fewer witnesses. […]

Overall, however, we have found little to no evidence that mismatch-induced processes underlie the hostility gap. We did not find that people behaved more hostile online than offline; we did not find that hostile individuals preferentially selected into online political discussions; and we did not find that people over-perceived hostility in online messages. We did find some evidence for another selection effect: Non-hostile individuals select out from all, hostile as well as non-hostile, online political discussions. Thus, despite the use of study designs with high power, the present data do not support the claim that online environments produce radical psychological changes in people. While the absence of evidence for an effect does not equal the absence of an effect, these data, at the very least, suggest that psychological mismatches are not the major cause of the hostility gap. People are the same online and offline, and they process information in similar ways.

The question is, then, what the cause of the hostility gap is. In the introduction, we mentioned an alternative to the mismatch hypothesis, focusing not on the psychological impact of online environments but on the actual affordances of the environment in terms of its network structure, algorithms, and so on. For example, online networks are public, and the actions of just a few hostile individuals will be significantly more visible online than offline. We collected data in Studies 2 and 3 to test this notion. Specifically, we asked respondents how often they witness attacks against the self, friends and strangers. As before, we repeated these questions both for online and online discussions. Respondents reported to witness more hostility against each of these parties online than offline.

These additional analyses suggest that the perception that online discussions are more hostile than offline discussions could simply be due to people witnessing a much larger number of discussions online as they browse through their feeds on social media. Given this, they perceive – without any bias – a much larger number of encounters where the discussants are hostile with each other or at the expense of “absent” third parties or groups. Despite common concerns about the negative effects of online echo chambers, perceptions of online hostility may be exacerbated by the publicity and fluidity of these discussion environments (Eady et al. 2019; Gentzkow and Shapiro 2011).

In sum, these analyses suggest that people do not engage in online political hostility by accident. Online political hostility reflects deliberate intentions to be hostile, formed by individuals who are hostile whether they engage with others online or offline and who seek out the possibility of being hostile in both online and offline contexts. In the large discussion networks formed online, people are much more likely to observe the actions of such individuals, whereas their actions are more private in offline settings. One potential implication of this argument is that the online contexts have provided people with a more accurate – and not more biased – understanding of just how contentious political topics are for some.

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