Dr. William J. Brady and colleagues analyzed the how social media users perceive more anger and outrage from political posts than how the author originally intended. This misunderstanding of tone affects belief in polarization, extremity, and normalizes a sense of hatred on platforms. 

Five studies of 650 participants took place from July 2020 to March 2021. Researchers had Twitter users review posts and judge how outraged they believed the author was while posting. 

Key Findings Include:
1.) Social media users tended to overperceive expressed moral outrage than the authors intended/ reported.
— Users who had the highest daily political social media use overperceived the most moral outrage.
2.) Social media users never assumed an author meant to express positive emotions, such as happiness.
3.) Participants who consumed outrage messages had amplified beliefs in:
— Outrage expression being “the norm.”
— Affective polarization (feeling more positive about one political party while becoming more negative toward the opposing party).
— Ideological extremities (belief that our parties or groups are ideologically extreme).
4.) Moral outrage that is expressed online worsens polarization.

Find the original report here.

Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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