Fewer people, more flames: How pre-existing beliefs and volume of negative comments impact online news readers’ verbal aggression

John Petit, Cong Li, Khudejah Ali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

In recent years, scholars have documented an increase in flaming behavior, which refers to a strong and hostile expression of emotions and feelings online. In order to identify the mechanism and specific circumstances of flaming, this study employed emotional contagion as the main theoretical framework and conducted a 2 (argument presented in a news article: support gun control vs. against gun control) × 2 (volume of negative comments: small vs. large) × 2 (news readers’ pre-existing beliefs: support gun control vs. against gun control) between-subjects experiment. Participants were asked to read an online news article about a gun-related topic as well as negative reader comments before they wrote a comment of their own. The experimental results showed that participants were more likely to use swear words in their comments when their viewpoint was diametrically opposed to the argument presented in the news article and when the article was accompanied by a low volume of negative comments. This interaction effect was mediated by negative emotions that participants experienced when reading the article and its associated comments. These findings have theoretical implications for future research pertaining to the identification of online circumstances and causes that could help mitigate the occurrence of flaming.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101471
JournalTelematics and Informatics
Volume56
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2021

Keywords

  • Emotional contagion
  • Flaming
  • Gun control
  • Online commenting
  • Social loafing
  • Verbal aggression

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Computer Networks and Communications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering

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