The Cognitive Science of Extremist Ideologies Online

1 Oct 2021  ·  Chloe Perry, Simon DeDeo ·

Extremist ideologies are finding new homes in online forums. These serve as both places for true believers, and recruiting-grounds for curious newcomers... To understand how newcomers learn ideology online, we study the Reddit archives of a novel sexist ideology known as the "the Red Pill''. Matching a longstanding hypothesis in the social sciences, our methods resolve the ideology into two components: a "behavioral'' dimension, concerned with correcting behavior towards the self and others, and an "explanatory'' dimension, of unifying explanations for the worldview. We then build a model of how newcomers to the group navigate the underlying conceptual structure. This reveals a large population of "tourists'', who leave quickly, and a smaller group of "residents'' who join the group and remain for orders of magnitude longer. Newcomers are attracted by the behavioral component, in the form of self-help topics such as diet, exercise, and addiction. Explanations, however, keep them there, turning tourists into residents. They have powerful effects: explanation adoption can more than double the duration of median engagement, and can explain the emergence of a long-tail of high-power engagers. The most sticky explanations, that predict the longest engagement, are about status hierarchies. read more

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Social and Information Networks Computers and Society Applications


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