The Need for Chaos and Motivations to Share Hostile Political Rumors

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Why are some people motivated to circulate hostile political information? While prior studies have focused on partisan motivations, we demonstrate that some individuals circulate hostile rumors because they wish to unleash chaos to burn down the entire political order in the hope they gain status in the process. To understand this psychology, we theorize and measure a novel psychological state, the Need for Chaos, emerging in an interplay of social marginalization and status-oriented personalities. Across eight studies of individuals living in the United States, we show that this need is a strong predictor of motivations to share hostile political rumors, even after accounting for partisan motivations, and can help illuminate differences and commonalities in the frustrations of both historically privileged and marginalized groups. To stem the tide of hostility on social media, the present findings suggest that real-world policy solutions are needed to address social frustrations in the United States.




Petersen, M. B., Osmundsen, M., & Arceneaux, K. (2023). The Need for Chaos and Motivations to Share Hostile Political Rumors. American Political Science Review, 117(4), 1486–1505.

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