Moral Outrage and Social Change on Social Media
2019 American Democracy Fellowship
There is significant controversy surrounding whether moral outrage has a net positive or negative effect on efforts towards social change. While on one hand moral outrage may motivate people to pursue the exposure and punishment of moral wrongdoers, others suggest it can lead to the harmful dehumanization of targets and spark costly retaliation. Moral outrage as it relates to social change remains poorly understood, and even less known about how these forces play out online via social media. In this research project, the aim is to measure the effect of moral outrage on a subject's likelihood of engaging in various activism-related behaviors in the setting of a social media platform. Subjects will be randomized into a treatment and control group. The treatment group will be exposed to news stories taken from the popular press which demonstrably generated significant moral outrage. Stories will cover a range of issues from healthcare to Wall Street to Animal Cruelty. The control group will be exposed to modified versions of the same story with elements eliciting moral outrage removed. After each story, subjects will be given opportunities to engage in various activism-related behaviors.