Saturday, March 11, 2023

Tweets in which US Senators accuse others of greed are more successful than other tweets

Eric J. Mercadante, Jessica L. Tracy, and Friedrich M. Götz, Greed communication predicts the approval and reach of US senators’ tweets, PNAS, March 6, 2023,

Abstract: Social media are at the forefront of modern political campaigning. They allow politicians to communicate directly with constituents and constituents to endorse politicians’ messages and share them with their networks. Analyzing every tweet of all US senators holding office from 2013 to 2021 (861,104 tweets from 140 senators), we identify a psycholinguistic factor, greed communication, that robustly predicts increased approval (favorites) and reach (retweets). These effects persist when tested against diverse established psycholinguistic predictors of political content dissemination on social media and various other psycholinguistic variables. We further find that greed communication in the tweets of Democratic senators is associated with greater approval and retweeting compared to greed communication in the tweets of Republican senators, especially when those tweets also mention political outgroups.

From the article:

Certain language patterns lead social media users to amplify—that is publicly endorse (“favorite”) and share (“retweet”)—political content. For example, tweets mentioning political outgroups (3) and employing moral–emotional (4) or negative emotion language (5) are more likely to be shared. Here, we examined whether this phenomenon extends to language about a psychological and emotional construct seen as central to policy- and decision-making: greed.

Psychologically, greed is “the desire to acquire more and the dissatisfaction of never having enough” (6, p. 519). Several influential philosophers, including Marx, Hobbes, and Machiavelli, argue that coping with the ubiquitous human tendency toward greed is an inevitable challenge of social living and—in turn—that political leaders and institutions need to curtail individual greed for the betterment of society (7). In contrast, others—such as Adam Smith—view greed as a productive and ultimately functional force in society because the motivation to amass personal wealth drives greedy people to invent new products and solve important problems that benefit society as a whole (7). Nonetheless, greed also predicts engaging in unethical behaviors to acquire resources (8, 9) and is often implicated in poor financial outcomes. For instance, chief executive officers' greed predicts lower shareholder returns (10) and slower recovery of stock prices after the 2008 financial crisis (9). Consequently, greed may be viewed negatively by the public, despite its potential for positive outcomes in a capitalist society. Politicians who explicitly discuss the detrimental consequences of greed might therefore be advantaged. Accordingly, we hypothesized that US Senators’ tweets discussing greed would receive more favorites and retweets (hypothesis 1), which might increase these senators’ followership among the electorate (11).

H/t Tyler Cowen.

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