Thursday, February 25, 2021

Student sex work is a current phenomenon all over the world; study found no difference in happiness between student sex workers and non-sex working students

Students in the Sex Industry: Motivations, Feelings, Risks, and Judgments. Felicitas Ernst1 et al. Front. Psychol., February 25 2021.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: Student sex work is a current phenomenon all over the world, increasingly reported by the media in recent years. However, student sex work remains under-researched in Germany and is lacking direct first-hand reports from the people involved. Further, sex work remains stigmatized, and therefore, students practicing it could be at risk of social isolation and emotional or physical danger. Therefore, this study examines students working in the sex industry focusing on their personal experiences and attitudes toward them. An online questionnaire was completed by 4386 students from Berlin universities. Students who identified themselves as sex workers (n = 227) were questioned with respect to their motivations to enter the sex industry, characteristics of their job, feelings after the intercourse, and perceived risks. Student non-sex workers (n = 2998) were questioned regarding knowledge of and attitudes toward student sex workers. Most student sex workers reported that they entered the sex industry due to financial reasons (35.7%). The majority reported offering services involving direct sexual intercourse. Disclosing their job to friends, family, or others was associated with less problems with social isolation and in romantic relationships. With a total of 22.9%, student non-sex workers reported never having heard about students working in the sex industry. The most frequent emotions mentioned by them with regard to student sex workers were compassion and dismay (48.9%). There was no difference in happiness between student sex workers and non-sex working students. Through this research, it becomes evident that there are similarities between the student’s motivations to enter the sex industry, their feelings, and the problems they have to face. Moreover, prejudices still prevail about the life of student sex workers. Increasing understanding of student sex work might help those sex workers to live a less stigmatized life and thereby to make use of support from others. The universities as institutions could form the basis for this, e.g., by openly supporting student sex workers. This could help to encourage the rights of student sex workers and to gain perspective with respect to the sex industry.


The aims of this exploratory study were (a) to gain a first insight into primary motivations driving students in Berlin, a major German metropolitan area, to enter the sex industry and to examine characteristics of their work, their feelings, and risks connected to the work; and (b) to investigate judgments and attitudes by non-sex working students toward student sex workers.

Motivations to Enter the Sex Industry

The most frequent services offered by students working in the sex industry were prostitution in the narrow sense, meaning sexual intercourse for money (21.6%) and escort services including sexual intercourse (18.5%). Previous studies, however, reported that student sex workers more often offer services excluding rather than including direct sexual–monetary exchange (Roberts et al., 2013Sagar et al., 2015a). As these studies by Roberts et al. (2013) and Sagar et al. (2015a) were conducted in countries demanding relatively high student fees, the different results are surprising. Since in Berlin student loans do not exist to this extent, one could assume that the students would not have to improve their financial situation by means of sex work. In this study, most sex workers (35.7%) stated that their primary motivation to enter the sex industry was indeed the possibility to obtain a higher income than in other jobs; only 4.0% stated that this was not important for them. A few (20.3%) opted for financial hardship as primary motivation, while nearly the same amount (15.9%) stated that this was not important. Financial hardship might therefore not be the only reason to enter the sex industry. Other reasons might include the flexibility of the job, as students are often not able to work regularly due to their studies. This is in line with the finding of Jenkins (2006), who also ascertained that financial hardship was not always the most relevant motivation for students to enter the sex industry. It was rather the fact of gaining higher income in a more flexible way than in other jobs. However, there are some students who stated that they entered the sex industry due to a critical financial situation.

Research by Sagar et al. (2015a) stated that both female as well as male students are working in the sex industry; sex work was even found to be more common among men than women. The current study did not find differences in gender within the student sex workers. Additionally, the study showed no difference between female and male sex workers with respect to several variables: no difference was found, among others, in the services they offer, in the motivations to enter the sex industry, or in experiencing violence. Regarding experiencing stigma, this study took a more generalized approach and did not take into account the differences between people’s experiences (e.g., with respect to gender or ethnicity), which would be of interest for future studies.

Frequency and Payment

Regarding the appointments with clients and the payment student sex workers receive, the results found in this study were similar to previous studies (Kontula, 2008Sagar et al., 2015a). Sagar et al. (2015a) reported that most students (54.1%) work less than five hours per week and 51.3% earn less than €300 per month.

Disclosing Work to Others

Most students stated that they chose to disclose their job to friends or to their partner, which mirrors findings from Roberts et al. (2013). Only a few student sex workers stated not having disclosed their job to someone else; consequences were increased problems in their partnerships and increased social isolation. Furthermore, there was a tendency of student sex workers who disclosed their job to someone else being happier than those who did not disclose their job. Previous studies showed that student sex workers suffer most when they feel like they are not able to talk to anyone about their profession (Sagar et al., 2015a). This might be a consequence of the taboo and the stigmatization of sex work. A previous study examining sex workers in Hong Kong showed that stigma can have several negative effects on mental as well as physical health (Wong et al., 2011): this includes direct forms of bullying, physical and verbal violence, as well as rather indirect forms through which the sex workers feel the need to isolate themselves socially and fear utilizing the help available (e.g., health services). As seen in the study at hand, there are several problems that sex workers have to face. However, lowering the taboo of the profession and being able to talk openly about it might help to reduce some of these problems, such as social isolation, mental stress, and health risks (Wong et al., 2011Armstrong, 2019).

Experiences of the Work

In our study, 37% of the students working in the sex industry did not experience violence while conducting their job; only 5.7% stated having experienced violence. This might be due to the fact that many student sex workers (43.6%) stated being protected by someone while conducting their job. These results are in line with the finding reported by Sagar et al. (2015a) that only a minority of student sex workers reported a lack of safety in the job; 75.5% stated to feel safe very often or always while conducting their job. Despite this, there are some students who stated to have experienced violence to which one should pay attention. The types of violence students referenced included both physical violence from clients as well as verbal abuse from others. It is assumed that removing the stigma around student sex work may help to make the profession safer (Armstrong, 2019). Previous studies showed that violence perpetrated against sex workers is often a consequence of stereotypical and hostile views toward sex workers (Sanders, 2016). Challenging such negative stereotypes and stigmatization may therefore help to build respect for sex workers and, in doing so, work toward reducing violence.

For both questions regarding feelings and experience with violence during sex work, there was a high prevalence of missing values. These were notably higher than for other parts of the questionnaire, which could be due to these questions being perceived as particularly sensitive and the students felt intimidated or ashamed to answer the question through an online questionnaire. As a result, there may have been a bias toward individuals with less negative feelings toward their work. Future studies could attempt a more personal interview approach in order to gain a greater understanding of these factors.

Students’ Views Toward Sex Workers and Differences Between Groups

Roberts et al. (2010) reported in their study that the majority of the students (58.5%) are aware of students working in the sex industry. This study found similar results. Over 62% of the non-sex working students reported to be aware of it through the media. Nonetheless, there is still a substantial number of students (22.9%) who reported never having heard about the phenomenon before. Research by Long et al. (2012) showed that people who know someone working in the sex industry have more positive views toward sex workers than others. This study supports these findings. Students who have never been confronted with student sex workers prior to the study reported more often the feeling lack of understanding when thinking of student sex workers than students who were aware of the phenomenon. Moreover, they reported less often the feelings respect and curiosity than students who were aware of students working in the sex industry. These findings point out the importance of increasing the awareness of student sex work. Research shows that there is still limited acceptance of sex work as a profession (Long et al., 2012Ma et al., 2018). Despite its legalization, many prejudices exist concerning sex work (Sagar et al., 2015a). In the past, sex workers were often seen as culprits, spreading sexually transmitted diseases (Vanwesenbeeck, 2001). Even until now, sex workers in general are seen as victims, which experience several problems. The fact that the majority of the students answered that they felt compassion and dismay while thinking of student sex workers emphasizes this observation. Regarding happiness, however, the current study showed that there was no difference in happiness with respect to working in the sex industry or not.


Despite the fact that there was a total of 4386 participants, students who are engaged in the sex industry or who know someone engaged in it may have been more willing to fill in the questionnaire, leading to a sample bias. The study was conducted in a metropolitan city, which might have led to a distorted higher number of sex workers, even though other studies found similar prevalence. On the other hand, it is conceivable that there is a substantial number of unreported cases of sex working students who did not want to provide such intimate information in an online questionnaire, even though it was clearly stated that data were collected anonymously. Further, the study did not include a response option for transgender and non-binary identity, which would be important to include in future studies as such individuals make up a notable percentage of sex workers (Fitzgerald et al., 2015).

A self-report instrument was used to collect the data. Participants might not always tell the truth, particularly concerning a sensitive topic like this. In addition to quantitative research methods, other studies adopted qualitative methods such as interviews (Jenkins, 2006Sagar et al., 2015a). Qualitative research methods might raise the expressiveness of the answers; at the same time, it might be more accessible for participants to answer questions on this topic in privacy.

The questionnaire used for this analysis was not validated. This is partly due to the fact that there is a lack of validated instruments for the study of sex work and in particular of sex work stigma, which should be dealt with in further research.

The question on “feelings after the intercourse” was displayed rather broadly in the questionnaire (e.g., lacking a comparison to either not having intercourse with a client or not having intercourse at all) and thus may have been more open to interpretation from the respondents. Therefore, the answers given on this question have to be interpreted with caution.

In this work, we derived the parameter of stigmatization mainly from the question about the feelings of non-sex working students toward sex workers, as we believe stigma (only partially dependent on the degree of perception of sex workers themselves) is mainly formed this way (Jonsson and Jakobsson, 2017). We asked the question of conceivable negative experiences to both sex workers and non-sex workers at the same time, which provides a certain comparison (presented in Table 3). However, this question involved various kinds of negative experiences, some of which only serve as a vague estimation for experiencing stigma (e.g., social isolation).

Lastly, the study at hand contains a relatively high number of missing data. As the aim of the research was to get an extensive insight into students working in the sex industry through consulting as many individuals as possible, all given answers from incomplete questionnaires were included. Also, the missing data might reflect the sensitivity of the topic and the results of the study should not be generalized. As mentioned above, in the future, the use of qualitative in addition to quantitative methods could be considered to gain a better understanding on some of the more sensitive topics surrounding student sex work.

Men more than women report regret passing up short-term sexual opportunities, while women regret having had sexual encounters; no evidence of mating strategy changes following sexual regret

The Function of Casual Sex Action and Inaction Regret: A Longitudinal Investigation. Leif Edward Ottesen Kennair, Trond Viggo Grøntvedt, Mons Bendixen. Evolutionary Psychology, February 25, 2021.

Rolf Degen's take:

Abstract: In several recent papers the sex difference in regret predicted by sexual strategies theory has been supported: men more than women report regret passing up short-term sexual opportunities (inaction regret), while women regret having had sexual encounters (action regret). However, the adaptive function of regret, to improve future behavioral choices, has not been tested. In this first longitudinal test of behavioral change following regret, we consider whether regret actually results in adaptive shifts of behavior: will men who regret passing up sex engage in more short-term sex following regret? Will women who regret short-term encounters either choose better quality partners, reduce number of one-night stands or shift their strategy to long-term relationships? Across two waves (NT1 = 399, 65.4% women and NT2 = 222, 66.2% women) students responded to questions about casual sex action regret and inaction regret, along with possible outcomes, intrapersonal traits, and concurrent contextual predictors. There was no clear evidence for the proposed functional shifts in sexual behavior. Casual sex regret was associated with respondent sex and stable individual differences, such as sociosexual attitudes, regret processing and metacognitions, but the effect of these predictors were not consistent across the two waves. Among the tested concurrent contextual predictors, sexual disgust was the most consistent across waves. Regret is considered a gauge of the value and quality of the short-term sexual encounter. However, tentatively we conclude that after this first test of function using longitudinal data, we find no evidence of a mating strategy shifting effect following sexual regret.

Keywords: sexual strategies theory, inaction regret, action regret, casual sex, sociosexuality, sexual disgust, sex differences, adaptive function, longitudinal

Many emotions have evolved, including fear (Cannon, 1915Kennair, 2007Marks & Nesse, 1994) and disgust (Al-Shawaf et al., 2018Tybur et al., 2009). Galperin et al. (2013) suggested an adaptive function of men’s sexual inaction regret and women’s sexual action regret, where both sexes should make more adaptive future sexual behavior choices, based upon the aversive emotional component of their regret. In general, action and inaction regret should result in more adaptive behavior, less regrettable behavior and thus less regret. This is the first empirical test of this functional hypothesis of regret.

We found no support for the hypothesis that inaction regret should increase short-term sexual activity, as inaction regret at T1 did not increase number of one-night stands or the likelihood of having a new one-night stand for either men or women between T1 and T2. We neither found support for the hypothesis that action regret at T1 would result in fewer short-term sexual partners at T2, especially for women. In addition, and contrary to the functional hypothesis, level of casual sex regret at T1 reduced the odds of entering a committed relationship at T2. Furthermore, the level of regret about having had casual sex was not associated with changes in perceived partner short-term attractiveness between T1 and T2 for those reporting a new casual sex partner (Hypothesis 3). This was also true for perceived partner long-term attractiveness (post-hoc, explorative analysis). Finally, there was no clear-cut conclusion based on the analysis that regret is a manifest functional mechanism that results in reduced future regret. Women reported lower levels of action regret at T2 relative to T1, while men reported more. Still, those who regretted more at T1 reported lower levels of regret at T2, but this may also be an effect of regression toward the mean as those who reported being ‘glad’ they had casual sex (or passed up having casual sex) reported more regret at T2.

The competing hypotheses that regret is non-functional and maintained by stable, intrapersonal factors or a result of concurrent, contextual factors were supported. The first of these suggests that sociosexuality, metacognitions and regret processing, independent of behavioral change, would predict regret. However, these predictors were not consistent across waves. Action regret showed moderate association with sociosexual attitudes at T1, but weak at T2. Regret processing was moderately associated with action regret across both waves, while positive and negative metacognitions were less consistently associated. The newly developed measure of regret processing is probably closely related to the personality trait neuroticism. As such, it is possible that these more stable traits and individual differences explain who will regret having had sex: more neurotic individuals will process negative aspects more and less restricted individuals will experience less reason to regret a physical encounter.

Of the concurrent, contextual factors included in the study (sexual disgust, sexual gratification, intoxication when having had sex, sexual initiative, and partner’s short-term mate value), only sexual disgust consistently predicted action regret across both waves, while sexual gratification was stronger associated with less regret at T1 relative to T2. We also found that higher partner short-term mate value and taking the initiative reduced regret at T1. Again, this replicates the gist of previous research into proximate mechanisms (Kennair et al., 20162018). However, without any identified behavioral change above, we are left with the conclusion that in addition to some effect of personality, what we find is that regret largely is a dynamic gauge of whether the casual sex being evaluated was good or bad.

An important aspect of a functional emotion is that it should produce change in behavior, and thus reduce the necessity of experiencing the emotion. Pain due to a stone in one’s shoe should motivate removing said stone, and thereby discontinuing the pain. Fear of a venomous spider should motivate avoidance and reduce the present level of fear. Without behavioral change as a result of an internal state there is no interaction with reality, and thus nothing for selection to work on. It was therefore surprising, from a functional perspective, that regret as counterfactual cognitive-emotional process was both continuous and relatively stable across different one-night stands for the same participants. There was further little evidence of behavioral change, which of course may be because we have not managed to define or operationalize this well enough. However, in sum, the tentative conclusion after the current investigation is that regret is to some degree maintained by individual differences and a result of concurrent, contextual factors, rather than a process that changes behavior in any predictable, functional direction.

It seems that men do not change their mating strategy after regretting having passed up casual sex opportunities some months earlier. Future research is therefore needed to further investigate men’s strategy shifts as a function of regret. However, while the preliminary conclusion needs to be tentative, there is no evidence in current data to suggest a function of inaction regret. For women there is more evidence in the literature that a maintained short-term strategy (more short-term sex) is associated with increased emotional discomfort (Townsend et al., 1995Townsend & Wasserman, 2011). Thus, the conclusion that negative emotions do not necessarily motivate a change in sexual strategy might be considered more robust. However, that begs the question of why regret exists, given that it shows evidence of sex specific responses, as predicted by sexual strategies theory (Buss, 1998Buss & Schmitt, 19932017). One possible explanation is that different mental adaptations have different and uncoordinated effects on different behaviors: Tendencies toward regret and engaging in short-term mating are influenced different individual differences in both neuroticism and emotional lability as well as sociosexuality and other mental mechanisms that motivate sexual behavior within different domains (Kennair et al., 2015Meston & Buss, 20072009). All of these will not increase personal happiness (Buss, 2000). Another explanation may be that modern mating scene is evolutionary mismatched (Goetz et al., 2019). Finally, many mental and emotional responses exist despite not being functional. For example, rumination probably does not solve problems (Kennair et al., 2017), while discontinuing rumination seems to actually increase adaptive behavior as measured by increased quality of life and improved workforce participation or study activity 3 years after treatment (Solem et al., 2019). Panic disorder exists, but in different countries how patients misinterpret, in a positive feedback loop, bodily sensations of anxiety such that in some Arabic countries they will perceive a Djinn sitting on their chest while in Western countries people may fear a heart attack. Since neither perception is correct, despite systematic symptoms, panic disorder is primarily merely a misinterpretation disorder (Clark, 1986Kennair, 2007). While worry might be a good anti-confirmation bias program at low levels, the worry involved in Generalized Anxiety Disorder is debilitating, not functional, and discontinuing worry provides efficient treatment (Kennair et al., 2020Nordahl et al., 2018). Any functional explanation of the disorder will therefore be incorrect, although many of the underlying mental mechanisms involved may be adaptations (Nesse, 2018). However, we need to consider that despite the current findings, there may be other explanations and functional aspects of short-term sexual regret that may be discovered through more thorough and formal analysis of the design feature and behavioral outcome of a functional regret program. We suggest that two recent theoretical papers—Lukaszewski et al. (2020) and Al-Shawaf et al. (2016)—might aid this conceptual functional analysis.

One of the most surprising findings is that action regret reduces the likelihood of entering a long-term relationship. This was in the opposite direction of our functional prediction. It is possible that some of the more successful one-night-stands resulted in long-term relationships over time, or that regret was increased when one at some level desired a long-term relationship from the short-term encounter, but this did not happen, although it is not possible to discern these processes from the available data. Another possibility is that underlying personality factors cause those who are happier with their short-term experiences to be more positive toward other romantic relationships. Neuroticism decreases long-term relationship satisfaction (Gerlach et al., 2018), and might conceptually, given our current finding of the effect of regret processing, also, be associated with dissatisfaction after short-term encounters.

Recent studies of proximate predictors of the sex difference in action and inaction casual sex regret have suggested that a high degree of disgust is associated with higher levels of regret (Kennair et al., 2018). Within each sex there is an effect of sexual gratification (Kennair et al., 2016), and particularly among women who take the initiative to have casual sex (Kennair et al., 2018). In the current findings these factors were not as robust, however, for some analyses we had few participants. Despite this, given the current findings, bad sex will increase regret, good sex or a sexy partner will decrease regret—which thus may act as an online emotional and cognitive gauge of one’s experience. Evolved sexual psychology, as predicted by SST, will influence that process and evaluation based on sex specific likelihoods and thresholds for what is considered desirable or what is adaptive. However, much as our ability to track our relationship satisfaction in long-term relationships dynamically and online (Conroy-Beam et al., 20152016), also based upon our evolved sexual psychology, we might track discrete sexual encounters more with emotional-cognitive processing akin to regret or rumination. We might use terms like satisfaction or dissatisfaction about long-term or ongoing processes, and regret about discrete choices and events, such as short-term sexual encounters. However, as in our relationships, we do not necessarily always make decisions based directly on this gauge of satisfaction, and other personality features, including or level of satisfaction may decide whether we stay or leave a long-term relationship or change our behavior within the relationship. Actually, reasons why we think we stay or leave and what we actually do are probably not as closely connected as people believe (Machia & Ogolsky, 2020).

Limitations and Future Research

While this is the first longitudinal investigation of behavioral changes following regret, there are some limitations that need to be addressed. First, the time lapse between the first and the second measurement was only 4.5 months on average. Although two-third of the single participants reported at least one new one-night stand during this period, this may be too short a time, or involve too few encounters for any adaptive mechanism to be activated. Despite the longitudinal design of the study, the reports on the most recent sexual encounters are retrospective in nature, and therefore subject to possible response biases. Second, there seems to be some self-selection and selective dropout at follow up. Relative to those reporting at T1 only, those with complete data at both T1 and T2 reported having had more casual sex, and less regret and regret processing at T1. Still, this selective dropout did not affect the relative sex differences in action and inaction regret at T1. However, the overall lower level of regret for those with complete data most likely have constrained the variance in regret in the longitudinal analyses increasing the risk of false negatives. This is sustained by the relatively low number of cases eligible for analysis. Finally, one important limitation is that we did not measure ambivalent feelings for action regret or passing up opportunities for having sex. By following the Galperin et al. (2013) measurement approach, we forced people to either be happy with their decision, neutral (neither happy or regret), regret somewhat or regret strongly. Most people may be more ambivalent, though, and may therefore describe their regret best along two dimensions: (1) degree of satisfaction with their choice, and (2) degree of regret/dissatisfaction for making the same choice. Future studies on sexual regret may want to include measures capturing this ambivalence to examine changes in either or in both these aspects of choice to have a one-night stand or to pass up.

As the first investigation of the function of inaction and action regret, hypothesized by Galperin and colleagues, we need to be cautious: as we note above, there may be other functions or other operationalizations of Galperin et al.’s ideas. These need to be considered both in depth theoretically and in future empirical investigations.

Finally, we have presented a new measure of regret processing, which needs to be tested further in future studies. The scale measures ones’ processing of negative past choices and counterfactual processing of more desirable behaviors. The scale was highly internally consistent and moderately stable across waves with different partners. This scale may provide a better measure of regret after discrete experiences. We expect that the scale to large degree correlates with trait neuroticism and recommend also measuring this trait specifically in future research.

Social media use for news is positively associated to uncivil political discussion & social media unfriending

Social Media Filtering and Democracy: Effects of Social Media News Use and Uncivil Political Discussions on Social Media Unfriending. Manuel Goyanes, Porismita Borah, Homero Gil de Zúñiga. Computers in Human Behavior, February 24 2021, 106759.


• Social media use for news is positively associated to uncivil political discussion.

• Social media use for news is positively associated to social media unfriending.

• Uncivil political discussion positively predicts unfriending.

• Uncivil political discussion moderates the association between social media use for news and unfriending.

• Social media unfriending is important to understand digital citizenship.

Abstract: In todays’ progressively polarized society, social media users are increasingly exposed to blatant uncivil comments, dissonant views, and controversial news contents, both from their peers and the media organizations they follow. Recent scholarship on selective avoidance suggests that citizens when exposed to contentious stimuli tend to either neglect, avoid, or by-pass such content, a practice scholarly known as users’ filtration tactics or unfriending. Drawing upon a nationally representative panel survey from the United States (W1 = 1,338/W2 = 511) fielded in 2019/2020, this study seeks to a) examine whether social media news use is associated to exposure to uncivil political discussions, and 2) explore the ways in which both constructs causally affect users’ unfriending behavior. Finally, the study investigates the contingent moderating role of uncivil political discussion in energizing the relationship between social media use for news and unfriending. Our findings first find support for the idea that social media news use directly activates citizens’ uncivil discussions and unfriending, while uncivil political discussion directly triggers unfriending behavior and significantly contributes to intensify the effect of social media news use over citizens’ unfriending levels. These findings add to current conversations about the potential motivations and deleterious effects of social media filtering in contemporary democracies.

Keywords: Social Media News UseUncivil Political DiscussionSocial Media FilteringSocial Media Unfriending

How do we take the temperature of a crowd? Perceivers preferentially attend to faces exhibiting strong emotions, seeing the crowd’s average emotional state more extreme than actually is (crowd-emotion-amplification effect)

The Crowd-Emotion-Amplification Effect. Amit Goldenberg et al. Psychological Science, February 24, 2021.

Abstract: How do people go about reading a room or taking the temperature of a crowd? When people catch a brief glimpse of an array of faces, they can focus their attention on only some of the faces. We propose that perceivers preferentially attend to faces exhibiting strong emotions and that this generates a crowd-emotion-amplification effect—estimating a crowd’s average emotional response as more extreme than it actually is. Study 1 (N = 50) documented the crowd-emotion-amplification effect. Study 2 (N = 50) replicated the effect even when we increased exposure time. Study 3 (N = 50) used eye tracking to show that attentional bias to emotional faces drives amplification. These findings have important implications for many domains in which individuals must make snap judgments regarding a crowd’s emotionality, from public speaking to controlling crowds.

Keywords: emotions, social cognition, perception, intergroup dynamics, open data, open materials, preregistered

Left- and Right-leaning News Organizations' Negative Tweets Are More Likely to Be Shared Than the Non-Negative Ones

Bellovary, Andrea, Nathaniel A. Young, and Amit Goldenberg. 2021. “Left- and Right-leaning News Organizations' Negative Tweets Are More Likely to Be Shared.” PsyArXiv. February 24. doi:10.31234/

Abstract: Negativity has historically dominated news content; however, little research has examined how news organizations use affect on social media, where content is generally positive. In the current project we ask a few questions: Do news organizations on Twitter use negative or positive language and which type of affect garners more engagement on social media? Does the political orientation of new organizations impact the affect expressed and engagement tweets receive on social media? The goal of this project is to examine these questions by investigating tweets of 24 left- and 20 right-leaning news organizations (140,358 tweets). Results indicated that negative affect was expressed more than positive affect. Additionally, negativity predicted engagement with news organizations’ tweets, but positivity did not. Finally, there were no differences in affect between left- and right-leaning political orientations. Overall, it appears that for news organizations, negativity is more frequent and more impactful than positivity.

Are We Deliberately Captivated in Homogeneous Cocoons? An Investigation on Political Tie Building on Facebook Shows We Aren't

Are We Deliberately Captivated in Homogeneous Cocoons? An Investigation on Political Tie Building on Facebook. Manuel Cargnino & German Neubaum. Mass Communication and Society, Volume 24, 2021 - Issue 2, Pages 187-209, Sep 1 2020.

Rolf Degen's take: Political like-mindedness does not seem to play a major part in tie building for most Facebook users

Abstract: The idea that users of social networking sites (SNS) isolate themselves within like-minded, homogeneous communication environments has been receiving growing scholarly attention. Different from studies on the structure of users’ online networks, this work offers initial evidence on the specific behavior of political tie building, i.e., the preferential connection to like-minded SNS users. A pre-registered survey (N = 469) including German Facebook users shows that political like-mindedness serves as criterion of tie selection only for some. Strength of social identification with a political ingroup is related to higher levels of political tie building which, in turn, is positively (albeit weakly) associated with perceived political homogeneity of Facebook ties. This is one of the first studies to identify the relative importance of politics in the process of tie building in online networks. At the same time, it underscores that SNS platforms such as Facebook are spaces of incidental exposure to cross-cutting political views.

Related papers by M Cargnino: