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Social media reduce users' moral sensitivity: Online shaming as a possible consequence

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Abstract

In this study, we propose that social media reduce users' moral sensitivity through the mediation of the perceived moral intensity of hostile comments, which leads to behavioral consequences for online shaming. Three separate studies were conducted to explore this statement. Study 1 (N = 160) compared moral sensitivity between participants in simulated social media situations and a control group. Study 2 (N = 412) tested the mediating role of perceived moral intensity through self‐rated questionnaires. Study 3 (N = 295) examined the behavioral consequences of reduced moral sensitivity on online shaming by manipulating social media and perceived moral intensity. Across these three studies with their different methodologies, we found consistent support for our prediction that social media reduce users' moral sensitivity. Also, our findings shed light on perceived moral intensity as a mediator. As expected, less perceived moral intensity and less moral sensitivity (as serial mediators) induced by social media led to a higher tendency to participate in online shaming. In addition, our research suggests that the harmful effects of social media could be restricted by improving users' perceived moral intensity in the form of reminders. These findings provide novel insights into the underlying mechanism of cyberviolence on social media and also contribute to the literature on the antecedents and consequences of moral sensitivity.

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... In a recent study, Ge (2020) has revealed that heavy use of social media, in terms of prolonged screen time, reduces moral sensitivity among young adults (Ge, 2020). The longer the screen time, the less likely users demonstrate moral sensitivity towards shared content and its possible consequences for other parties (Ge, 2020). ...
... In a recent study, Ge (2020) has revealed that heavy use of social media, in terms of prolonged screen time, reduces moral sensitivity among young adults (Ge, 2020). The longer the screen time, the less likely users demonstrate moral sensitivity towards shared content and its possible consequences for other parties (Ge, 2020). ...
... In a recent study, Ge (2020) has revealed that heavy use of social media, in terms of prolonged screen time, reduces moral sensitivity among young adults (Ge, 2020). The longer the screen time, the less likely users demonstrate moral sensitivity towards shared content and its possible consequences for other parties (Ge, 2020). Even though users are able to understand the ethical aspects of their actions in everyday life, they seem to let it slide on social media platforms (Ge, 2020). ...
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... For instance, Patton et al. (Patton et al., 2014) and Nagle (Nagle, 2018) systematically reviewed related studies and found significant positive correlations between CV and social media. Moreover, Ge found that CV frequently occurred on social networking sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Weibo (Ge, 2020). He further explained that users' moral sensitivity could be reduced by social media, with CV constituting one of its main behavioral consequences. ...
... Until now, there have been no accurate criteria for judging whether a user was an influential user. Although the number of followers proved to be an essential indicator in many previous studies (Ge, 2020;Luqiu et al., 2019;Shi et al., 2021), the aim of this study was not to accurately identify influential users but rather to provide a relatively detailed understanding of the role of we-media in spreading information on social media. Thus, our classification criteria were largely rational. ...
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... With the advent of social technologies accessible to the Internet, SM offers areas for relationship building, enjoyment and self-presentation (Rui and Stefanone, 2013a). SM plays an important role in the everyday lives of people by enabling them to exchange knowledge at any time and communicate with people worldwide (Adikari et al., 2021;Ge, 2020), which has the effect of creating enjoyment (Kim et al., 2019), and building relationships (Camarero et al., 2018). Selfpresentation is very relevant in SM (Gomez et al., 2022). ...
... With respect to the gaps, studies have emphasized future research on online shaming i.e., future research is required to gain an understanding of the online shaming perspective among younger and older adults (De Vries, 2015). Instead of actual behaviour in a real-life setting, online shaming has been measured as a pattern in a hypothetical situation to empirically develop more elaborate boundary conditions; therefore, the issue requires further research (Ge, 2020). The gaps and need for future research justify the motivation of the study. ...
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... A few studies informed by moral psychology have explored the extent to which users make morally engaged or disengaged decisions online, depending on their emotions or on their perceptions of the ethical features of different online contexts (D'Errico & Paciello, 2018;Ge, 2020). What is lacking, however, is research exploring moral decision making online through a multifaceted moral theoretical lens. ...
... This finding is based on a classification of participants' reactions that is grounded in Bandura's (1999) theory of moral disengagement. The present research builds on a few studies that have drawn on this theory to explore the extent to which users make morally engaged or disengaged decisions online (e.g., D'Errico & Paciello, 2018;Ge, 2020;Kyriacou & Zuin, 2018;Price et al., 2013). These studies have argued that using social media within different contexts (from discussing climate change or migration to witnessing to cyberbullying) contribute primarily to forms of moral disengagement than of moral engagement. ...
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This article draws on moral theory to advance digital citizenship education and explore how adolescents aged 13–16 make decisions when confronted with incivility, such as cyberbullying, on social media. Given the extent to which digital citizenship education may be approached in line with deontological (rules), utilitarian (consequences) and/or virtue ethical (character) theories, we argue that it is important to know which of these underpin adolescents’ moral decision making online. To address this question, this article reports findings from a survey completed by 1947 13–16 year olds in England. Chi-square tests, binary logistic regressions and other exploratory analysis showed that most 13–16 year-olds use virtue ethical reasons to justify moral actions. We conclude that if online incivility is to be reduced, policymakers, educators and parents should focus more on virtue- and character-based approaches to digital citizenship education.
... A priori power analysis using the GPower software (Faul et al., 2007) to determine the minimum sample size required for this study. The median effect size was always set to f 2 = 0.15 in previous studies that have used regression analysis to calculate mediating effect (Ge, 2020;Pozzoli et al., 2016;Yang et al., 2018). When the median effect size was set to f 2 = 0.15, α = 0.05, and 1 − β = 0.9, a minimum of 88 subjects was deemed necessary to use regression analysis with two predictors. ...
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Aggressive collective action online has many negative impacts on the online environment and can even lead to political violence or social panic in the offline world. Although the effect of relative deprivation on aggression toward the compared object is well known, the influence of relative deprivation on aggressive collective action online toward deprivation-related provocateurs within the group has been ignored. Thus, this study attempted to explore the effect, as well as the mediating mechanism underlying it. We found that group relative deprivation manipulated by an employment problem scenario (with the triggering event as a covariable) can enhance aggressive collective action online toward deprivation-related provocateurs within the group, with hostile feelings mediating the effect. These results support and develop the relative deprivation theory, frustration–aggression theory, stress and coping theory, and deepen the understanding of the relationship between relative deprivation and aggression. The findings also suggest that colleges should focus more on graduate employment problems and decreasing the relative deprivation experienced by undergraduate students in efforts to prevent aggressive collective action online.
... Promisingly, a few studies at the intersection of media studies and moral psychology have focused on moral decision-making online by examining, for instance, the extent to which users value good character or are conscious of and respond to moral dilemmas, relating, for example, to online privacy and security (Jackson et al., 2008;Mohammadnazar et al., 2019). In addition, there is some research that has examined the extent to which low moral sensitivity corresponds to abusive behaviour online (Ge, 2020;Zezulka & Seigfried-Spellar, 2016). These studies have prioritised aspects that are relevant to wisdom in the digital age-aspects that range from how users deal with moral dilemmas to their moral sensitivity. ...
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... Considering maladaptive cycles first, the model draws on a relatively standard case conceptualisation of mixed anxiety and depression or low self-esteem, since these are the symptoms most often described in studies of SM use, 43 and further, are the focus of common presentations in community mental health services. As one might expect given the social nature of the medium and the heightened sensitivity of adolescents to peer influence and social rejection (Orben, Tomova, et al. 2020 Lapidot-Lefler and Barak 2012), potential exposure to large audiences across multiple contexts (publicness) (Marwick and boyd 2011) and the amplifying / sensationalising nature of the experience, may contribute to instigate well-documented disinhibition effects and reduced moral sensitivity / empathy, such that harsh and critical judgement as well as public shaming may be common (Ge 2020). Further, the publicness, availability and permanence of many online platforms mean that expectations from peers may be amplified online (Nesi, Choukas-Bradley, and Prinstein 2018a;Niland et al. 2015), and a lack of near immediate response from others may be interpreted as rejection (Katsumata et al. 2008), which is particularly painful for young people (Eisenberger et al. 2003). ...
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... Despite the importance of cyber-wisdom education, there is a lack of research on this topic. A few studies informed by moral psychology have explored the extent to which users make morally engaged or disengaged decisions online, depending, for instance, on their emotions or their perceptions of the ethical features of different online contexts (D'Errico and Paciello, 2018;Ge, 2020). What is lacking, however, is research exploring moral decision-making online through a virtue ethics lens -one that recognises the value of promoting wisdom, through formal education, as an overarching construct, and in concert with other moral theories such as deontology and utilitarianism. ...
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Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues 2 A Cyber-Wisdom Approach to Digital Citizenship Education Leading on theory and practice in character and virtues. The Jubilee Centre was founded in 2012 by Professor James Arthur. Based at the University of Birmingham, it has a dedicated team of 20 academics from a range of disciplines, including: philosophy, psychology, education, theology and sociology. With its focus on excellence in rigorous academic research, the Jubilee Centre leads a community of practitioners, academics and policymakers in character and virtues. The Jubilee Centre offers world-class research that promotes a moral concept of character in order to explore the importance of virtue for public and professional life. A central principle of the Jubilee Centre's work is that the virtues that constitute good character can be learnt and taught. A central mission is to ensure that the commitment to character education is commonplace in schools, colleges, universities and the professions. The Jubilee Centre is a leading authority on policy and practice and through its extensive range of projects contributes to a renewal of character and virtues aimed at individual and societal flourishing.
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This study uses responses from a survey of marketing professionals in a structural equation model linking antecedents and consequences of two dimensions of personal moral philosophies (idealism and relativism) and perceived moral intensity (PMI). Mixed support is found for hypothesized effects of gender, religiosity, education, experience, salary, and corporate ethical values on idealism and relativism. Idealism increases and relativism decreases PMI in four ethical scenarios. PMI increases perceptions of ethical problems, which reduce intentions to act unethically. The study tests whether relationships between variables, revealing that PMI has direct as well as indirect effects on intentions. Intentions are also influenced by gender: women have more ethical intentions than men, on average, and this effect is not mediated by other variables in the model.
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Existing theoretical models of individual ethical decision making in organizations place little or no emphasis on characteristics of the ethical issue itself. This article (a) proposes an issue-contingent model containing a new set of variables called moral intensity; (b) using concepts, theory, and evidence derived largely from social psychology, argues that moral intensity influences every component of moral decision making and behavior; (c) offers four research propositions; and (d) discusses implications of the theory.
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Moral agency has dual aspects manifested in both the power to refrain from behaving inhumanely and the proactive power to behave humanely. Moral agency is embedded in a broader socio-cognitive self-theory encompassing affective self-regulatory mechanisms rooted in personal standards linked to self-sanctions. Moral functioning is thus governed by self-reactive selfhood rather than by dispassionate abstract reasoning. The self-regulatory mechanisms governing moral conduct do not come into play unless they are activated and there are many psychosocial mechanisms by which moral self-sanctions are selectively disengaged from inhumane conduct. The moral disengagement may centre on the cognitive restructuring of inhumane conduct into a benign or worthy one by moral justification, sanitising language and exonerative social comparison; disavowal of personal agency in the harm one causes by diffusion or displacement of responsibility; disregarding or minimising the injurious effects of one's actions; and attribution of blame to, and dehumanisation of, those who are victimised. Social cognitive theory adopts an interactionist perspective to morality in which moral actions are the products of the reciprocal interplay of personal and social influences. Given the many mechanisms for disengaging moral control at both the individual and collective level, civilised life requires, in addition to humane personal standards, safeguards built into social systems that uphold compassionate behaviour and renounce cruelty.
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This study examined the ethical sensitivity of 2 Finnish urban schools' 7th- to 9th-grade students (N = 249) with the Ethical Sensitivity Scale Questionnaire (ESSQ), based on Narvaez' (200124. Narvaez , D. , Endicott , L. and Bock , T. Constructing ethical expertise: A new approach to moral education . Paper presented at the Association for Moral Education Annual Meeting . Vancouver, Canada. October . View all references) operationalization of ethical sensitivity. Three research questions were formulated: (1) Are the psychometric properties of ESSQ scientifically valid? Are there any differences in the ethical sensitivity between (2) female and male and (3) academically average and gifted students? Results showed that psychometric properties of ESSQ were satisfactory for scientific work. According to the results, female students estimated their ethical skills higher than their male peers. This tendency was explained by the nature of items, which mostly measure caring ethics with emotional and social intelligence. Academically gifted students estimated their ethical skills higher than average ability students. This finding supported other researchers' notions that gifted students hold a privileged position in the maturation of moral thinking because of their precocious intellectual growth.
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Internet newsgroups allow individuals to interact with others in a relatively anonymous fashion and thereby provide individuals with concealable stigmatized identities a place to belong not otherwise available. Thus, membership in these groups should become an important part of identity. Study 1 found that members of newsgroups dealing with marginalized–concealable identities modified their newsgroup behavior on the basis of reactions of other members, unlike members of marginalized–conspicuous or mainstream newsgroups. This increase in identity importance from newsgroup participation was shown in both Study 2 (marginalized sexual identities) and Study 3 (marginalized ideological identities) to lead to greater self-acceptance, as well as coming out about the secret identity to family and friends. Results supported the view that Internet groups obey general principles of social group functioning and have real-life consequences for the individual. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Four laboratory studies show that people are more likely to accept others’ unethical behavior when ethical degradation occurs slowly rather than in one abrupt shift. Participants served in the role of watchdogs charged with catching instances of cheating. The watchdogs in our studies were less likely to criticize the actions of others when their behavior eroded gradually, over time, rather than in one abrupt shift. We refer to this phenomenon as the slippery-slope effect. Our studies also demonstrate that at least part of this effect can be attributed to implicit biases that result in a failure to notice ethical erosion when it occurs slowly. Broadly, our studies provide evidence as to when and why people accept cheating by others and examine the conditions under which the slippery-slope effect occurs.
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An experiment was conducted to study how marketing students' ethical decision making was influenced by their perceived moral intensity (PMI), corporate culture, and the reward system. The findings indicate that levels of awareness of the ethical consequences of a decision, the corporate culture, and the reward system all significantly affect ethical decision making. The results provide marketing educators with a framework for understanding the drivers of ethical decision making among marketing students. Given the results, some of the issues associated with teaching marketing ethics are highlighted.
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Advances in computing and telecommunications technology are changing how people can meet and make group decisions. Technological changes help people cross physical, social, and psychological boundaries, and have secondary effects on group behavior and decision making. Experiments show that, compared with a face-to-face meeting, a computer-mediated discussion leads to delays; more explicit and outspoken advocacy; “flaming;” more equal participation among group members; and more extreme, unconventional, or risky decisions. Technological and social psychological variables that cause these effects in laboratory groups do not scale at equal rates. Technological change in organizational group decision making can lead to outcomes not seen in the laboratory, which makes it essential to do field research. Three phenomena observed in field studies are redistributions of work time, relative advantages in participation for peripheral workers, and increases in complexity of group organization. Experimental and field studies on these technology effects are useful not just as an “impact statement” for those considering technological change; this research also can put a new light on basic processes in which we have always had an interest.
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