Outrage is Guilt

Gepostet vor 2 Monaten, 19 Tagen in #Science #DasGeileNeueInternet #OutrageMemetics #Psychology

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Hochinteressantes Paper über Empörung und Schuld mit Implikationen für Callout-Culture, Virtue Signaling und Outrage-Memetik. Psychologen haben anhand der Beispiele „Sweatshop“ und „Klimawandel“ festgestellt, dass Menschen sich vor allem dann über Unternehmen für ihre unmoralischen Handlungen (also Sweatshops mit verwerflichen Arbeitsbedingungen in Niedriglohnländern) aufregen, wenn sie selbst auffällige Teilhabe an diesem Prozess haben (also zum Beispiel Nike-Schuhe tragen).

Die Aufregung der Leute diente in diesen Fällen zur Bestätigung ihrer eigenen „moralischen Identität“ und noch wichtiger für DasGeileNeueInternet: Die Gelegenheit, Empörung auszudrücken, führte zu einer Überhöhung der eigenen moralischen Integrität. In anderen Worten: Gib Leuten ein Tool, mit dem man seiner Entrüstung sehr leicht Ausdruck verleihen kann (sagen wir mal, Social Media), und sie werden es garantiert tun, sowohl um ihre Schuldgefühle zu bekämpfen, ihre Identität zu wahren, als auch sich selbst als moralisch integerer zu fühlen.

Die Autoren der Studie legen auch nahe, dass weder die politischeh Überzeugung dabei eine Rolle spielt, noch der persönliche „general Affect“ (dt. etwa „generelles Aufregungspotential“), noch die Haltung zum abgefragten Gegenstand (Globalisierungsgegner, Nike-Hater, Klimaleugner, whatever). Das suggeriert, dass diese Ergebnisse genauso für eher unpolitische Menschen gilt, wie auch etwa für Aktivisten.

Die Wissenschaftler relativieren ihre Ergebnisse in ihrer Konklusion allerdings zum Teil. Zum einen betrifft die „Empörung durch Schuld“ lediglich „einige Manifestationen von moralischer Entrüstung“ – mit „einige“ meinen die Autoren anscheinend „3rd Party Outrage“, also die Empörung über das Leid anderer. Und zum anderen ist selbst schuld-motivierte Empörung letztlich nicht zwingend falsch oder unangebracht (als Beispiel fallen mir spontan etwa Morddrohungen gegen Feministinnen ein). Ich bin mir auch sehr sicher, dass wirtschaftliche Faktoren eine große Rolle spielen im Aufregungs-Netz-Diskurs: Wenn etwa Slate über sexistische Löffelchenstellung schreibt, vermute ich nicht tatsächliche Empörung, sondern schlichtes Clickbait. Der im Paper beschriebene Mechanismus ist dennoch hochinteressant.

Zum Ende deutet das Paper schließlich sogar einen Ausweg zur „Entgiftung“ des derzeitigen Diskurses an, für die alternative und positive Wege zur Aufrechterhaltung einer moralischen Gruppenidentität entwickelt werden sollten: „An acknowledgement of the defensive motives that underlie certain forms of outrage points toward at least one source of strain on clear-headed political discourse. Importantly, this research also gestures toward a corrective: To the extent that individuals and groups can find positive ways of maintaining a moral identity, they may be able to diffuse defensive moral outrage.“ (Ein schönes Argument für meinen Vorschlag, Popkultur als Tool zum Ausdruck dieser Debatten zu nutzen. Aber auf mich hört ja keiner.)

Paper: A cleansing fire: Moral outrage alleviates guilt and buffers threats to one’s moral identity (SciHub is your friend), Zusammenfassung von Reason.com: Moral Outrage Is Self-Serving, Say Psychologists – Perpetually raging about the world's injustices? You're probably overcompensating.

„When people publicly rage about perceived injustices that don't affect them personally, we tend to assume this expression is rooted in altruism—a 'disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others'. But new research suggests that professing such third-party concern—what social scientists refer to as 'moral outrage' — is often a function of self-interest, wielded to assuage feelings of personal culpability for societal harms or reinforce (to the self and others) one's own status as a Very Good Person.“

Outrage expressed "on behalf of the victim of [a perceived] moral violation" is often thought of as "a prosocial emotion" rooted in "a desire to restore justice by fighting on behalf of the victimized," explain Bowdoin psychology professor Zachary Rothschild and University of Southern Mississippi psychology professor Lucas A. Keefer in the latest edition of Motivation and Emotion. Yet this conventional construction—moral outrage as the purview of the especially righteous—is "called into question" by research on guilt, they say.

Feelings of guilt are a direct threat to one's sense that they are a moral person and, accordingly, research on guilt finds that this emotion elicits strategies aimed at alleviating guilt that do not always involve undoing one's actions. Furthermore, research shows that individuals respond to reminders of their group's moral culpability with feelings of outrage at third-party harm-doing. These findings suggest that feelings of moral outrage, long thought to be grounded solely in concerns with maintaining justice, may sometimes reflect efforts to maintain a moral identity. […]

Here's the gist of Rothschild and Keefer's findings:

1. Triggering feelings of personal culpability for a problem increases moral outrage at a third-party target. For instance, respondents who read that Americans are the biggest consumer drivers of climate change "reported significantly higher levels of outrage at the environmental destruction" caused by "multinational oil corporations" than did the respondents who read that Chinese consumers were most to blame.

2. The more guilt over one's own potential complicity, the more desire "to punish a third-party through increased moral outrage at that target." For instance, participants in study one read about sweatshop labor exploitation, rated their own identification with common consumer practices that allegedly contribute, then rated their level of anger at "international corporations" who perpetuate the exploitative system and desire to punish these entities. The results showed that increased guilt "predicted increased punitiveness toward a third-party harm-doer due to increased moral outrage at the target."

3. Having the opportunity to express outrage at a third-party decreased guilt in people threatened through "ingroup immorality." Study participants who read that Americans were the biggest drivers of man-made climate change showed significantly higher guilt scores than those who read the blame-China article when they weren't given an opportunity to express anger at or assign blame to a third-party. However, having this opportunity to rage against hypothetical corporations led respondents who read the blame-America story to express significantly lower levels of guilt than the China group. Respondents who read that Chinese consumers were to blame had similar guilt levels regardless of whether they had the opportunity to express moral outrage.

4. "The opportunity to express moral outrage at corporate harm-doers" inflated participants perception of personal morality. Asked to rate their own moral character after reading the article blaming Americans for climate change, respondents saw themselves as having "significantly lower personal moral character" than those who read the blame-China article—that is, when they weren't given an out in the form of third-party blame. Respondents in the America-shaming group wound up with similar levels of moral pride as the China control group when they were first asked to rate the level of blame deserved by various corporate actors and their personal level of anger at these groups. In both this and a similar study using the labor-exploitation article, "the opportunity to express moral outrage at corporate harm-doing (vs. not) led to significantly higher personal moral character ratings," the authors found.

5. Guilt-induced moral outrage was lessened when people could assert their goodness through alternative means, "even in an unrelated context." Study five used the labor exploitation article, asked all participants questions to assess their level of "collective guilt" (i.e., "feelings of guilt for the harm caused by one's own group") about the situation, then gave them an article about horrific conditions at Apple product factories. After that, a control group was given a neutral exercise, while others were asked to briefly describe what made them a good and decent person; both exercises were followed by an assessment of empathy and moral outrage. The researchers found that for those with high collective-guilt levels, having the chance to assert their moral goodness first led to less moral outrage at corporations. But when the high-collective-guilt folks were given the neutral exercise and couldn't assert they were good people, they wound up with more moral outrage at third parties. Meanwhile, for those low in collective guilt, affirming their own moral goodness first led to marginally more moral outrage at corporations.

These findings held true even accounting for things such as respondents political ideology, general affect, and background feelings about the issues.

Ultimately, the results of Rothschild and Keefer's five studies were "consistent with recent research showing that outgroup-directed moral outrage can be elicited in response to perceived threats to the ingroup's moral status," write the authors. The findings also suggest that "outrage driven by moral identity concerns serves to compensate for the threat of personal or collective immorality" and the cognitive dissonance that it might elicit, and expose a "link between guilt and self-serving expressions of outrage that reflect a kind of 'moral hypocrisy,' or at least a non-moral form of anger with a moral facade."

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