Posts tagged with "Morality"

Tweets using moral-emotional messaging are more likely to go viral

February 27, 2018

Do you want your tweets to go viral? A team of researchers at New York University’s Department of Psychology has found that posts on Twitter are most likely to “trend” if they discuss political topics in the context of morality, using language that resonates emotionally with the reader.

The recent study, Emotion shapes the diffusion of moralized content in social networks—which examined Twitter messages related to gun control, climate change and same-sex marriage—examines both the potential and limits of communicating on social media.

“The content that spreads the most may have the biggest impact on social media, so individuals, community leaders, and even political elites could see their influence enhanced by emphasizing morality and emotion in their online messaging,” explains William Brady, the lead author of the study and a doctoral candidate in NYU’s of Psychology. “However, while using this type of language may help content proliferate within your own social or ideological group, it may find little currency among those who have a different world view.”

The findings appear in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study involved the analysis of more than 560,000 tweets pertaining to an array of contentious political issues.  In reviewing each tweet, the research team separated posts containing words that were:

  • Both moral and emotional (e.g., “greed”),
  • Emotional only (e.g., “fear”), and
  • Moral only (e.g., “duty”).

They relied on previously established language dictionaries to identify them.

The researchers then examined how many times each category of messages was retweeted—as well as the political ideology of both the sender of the original messages and of the retweeted ones. Ideology was calculated using an algorithm—based on previous research that shows users tend to follow those with a similar ideology—that analyzed the follower network of each user.

They found that—across the topics of gun control, climate change and same-sex marriage— the presence of language defined as being both moral and emotional increased retweets by 20% per moral-emotional word.

By contrast, the impact of exclusively moral or exclusively emotional language was not as consistently associated with an increase in retweets. In addition, the uptick in retweets was limited to like-minded networks—a much smaller effect was established among accounts with an ideology conflicting with the sender’s.

There were also some differences among the three issues in the types of moral-emotional messages that were retweeted. For example, in contrast to same-sex marriage, in which people were more likely to retweet positive messages (e.g., tweets using the hashtag “#lovewins”), when discussing climate change people were more likely to retweet negative messages, such as those referring to environmental harms caused by climate change.

“In the context of moral and political discourse in online social networks, subtle features of the content of your posts are associated with how much your content spreads socially,” observes Jay Van Bavel, an associate professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology and one of the study’s co-authors. “However, these results also highlight one process that may partly explain increased differences between liberals and conservatives—communications fusing morality and emotion are more likely to resemble echo chambers and may exacerbate ideological polarization.”

The study’s other authors were: Julian Wills, a doctoral candidate in NYU’s Department of Psychology, Joshua Tucker, a professor in NYU’s Department of Politics, and John Jost, a professor in NYU’s Department of Psychology.

The research was supported, in part, by grants from the National Science Foundation (1349089, SES-1248077, SES-1248077-001).

Research contact: williambrady@nyu.edu

Heathens still can be honorable, most Americans say

November 1, 2017

There goes another “sacred cow.” Most U.S. adults (56%) now say it is not necessary to believe in a creator or a higher power to be moral and have good values—up from about half (49%) who expressed this view in 2011, according to results of a Pew Survey released on October 16.

The increase reflects the continued growth in the share of the population that has no religious affiliation, but it also is the result of changing attitudes among those who do identify with a religion, including white evangelical Protestants.

Indeed, Pew reports, although the United States remains home to more Christians (70% nationwide) than any other country worldwide, the percentage of adults who identify as Christian has dropped. The pollster said that, according to its research findings, the numbers went from 78.4% in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014.

Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – that is, who describe themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” –jumped by more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.

And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. Growth has been especially great among Muslims and Hindus, albeit from a very low base.

Surveys have long shown that respondents who do not believe in an organized religion are more likely than those who identify with a religion to say that belief in God is not a prerequisite for good values and morality.

“So the public’s increased rejection of the idea that belief in God is necessary for morality is due, in large part, to the spike in the share of Americans who are religious ‘nones,’” Pew states.

Indeed, the growth in the share of Americans who say belief in a creator is unnecessary for morality tracks closely with the growth in the share of the population that is religiously unaffiliated. In the 2011 Pew Research Center survey that included the question about God and morality, religious “nones” constituted 18% of the sample. By 2017, the share of “nones” stood at 25%.

However, the pollsters note, that is just part of the story. Attitudes about the necessity of belief in God for morality also have changed among those who do identify with a religion. Among all religiously affiliated adults, the share who say belief in God is unnecessary for morality ticked up modestly, from 42% in 2011 to 45% in 2017.

Among white evangelical Protestants, 32% now say belief in God is not necessary to have good values and be a moral person, up from 26% who said this in 2011. To be sure, most white evangelicals still say belief in God is necessary for morality. But the share who say belief in God is a necessary underpinning of being moral has declined from 72% to 65% in just six years.

Religious “nones” themselves, in addition to growing as a share of the population, have simultaneously become more likely to reject the idea that believing in God is necessary for morality. In 2017, 85% of religious “nones” say belief in God is unnecessary for morality, up from 78% who said this in 2011.

The trends in opinion on this question also point in the same direction among white mainline Protestants, black Protestants and white Catholics. Recent changes among these groups, however, have not been statistically significant.

Pew research contact: info@pewresearch.org