Extremists on the left and right use angry, negative language

J.A. Frimer*, M.J. Brandt, Z. Melton, M. Motyl

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

We propose that political extremists use more negative language than moderates. Previous research found that conservatives report feeling happier than liberals and yet liberals "display greater happiness" in their language than do conservatives. However, some of the previous studies relied on questionable measures of political orientation and affective language, and no studies have examined whether political orientation and affective language are nonlinearly related. Revisiting the same contexts (Twitter, U.S. Congress), and adding three new ones (political organizations, news media, crowdsourced Americans), we found that the language of liberal and conservative extremists was more negative and angry in its emotional tone than that of moderates. Contrary to previous research, we found that liberal extremists' language was more negative than that of conservative extremists. Additional analyses supported the explanation that extremists feel threatened by the activities of political rivals, and their angry, negative language represents efforts to communicate as much to others.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1216-1231
JournalPersonality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Volume45
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Fingerprint

Language
Happiness
Organizations

Keywords

  • BIAS
  • CONSERVATIVES
  • EMOTION
  • HAPPIER
  • ISSUES
  • LIBERALS
  • NEWS
  • POLITICAL-IDEOLOGY
  • TWITTER
  • anger
  • extremism
  • happiness
  • language
  • liberals and conservatives
  • threat

Cite this

Frimer, J.A. ; Brandt, M.J. ; Melton, Z. ; Motyl, M. / Extremists on the left and right use angry, negative language. In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2019 ; Vol. 45, No. 8. pp. 1216-1231.
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Extremists on the left and right use angry, negative language. / Frimer, J.A.; Brandt, M.J.; Melton, Z.; Motyl, M.

In: Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 45, No. 8, 2019, p. 1216-1231.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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AB - We propose that political extremists use more negative language than moderates. Previous research found that conservatives report feeling happier than liberals and yet liberals "display greater happiness" in their language than do conservatives. However, some of the previous studies relied on questionable measures of political orientation and affective language, and no studies have examined whether political orientation and affective language are nonlinearly related. Revisiting the same contexts (Twitter, U.S. Congress), and adding three new ones (political organizations, news media, crowdsourced Americans), we found that the language of liberal and conservative extremists was more negative and angry in its emotional tone than that of moderates. Contrary to previous research, we found that liberal extremists' language was more negative than that of conservative extremists. Additional analyses supported the explanation that extremists feel threatened by the activities of political rivals, and their angry, negative language represents efforts to communicate as much to others.

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