Why are online discussions about politics more hostile than offline discussions? A popular answer argues that human psychology is tailored for face-to-face interaction and people’s behavior therefore changes for the worse in impersonal online discussions. We provide a theoretical formalization and empirical test of this explanation: the mismatch hypothesis. We argue that mismatches between human psychology and novel features of online environments could (a) change people’s behavior, (b) create adverse selection effects and (c) bias people’s perceptions. Across eight studies, leveraging cross-national surveys and behavioral experiments (total N=8,434), we test the mismatch hypothesis but only find evidence for limited selection effects. Instead, hostile political discussions are the result of status-driven individuals who are drawn to politics and are equally hostile both online and offline. Finally, we offer initial evidence that online discussions feel more hostile, in part, because the behavior of such individuals is more visible than offline.Alexander Bor, Michael Bang Petersen
Goes with my assumption that the percentage of assholes is a constant, no matter where you take a sample. The Internet just gives them a megaphone.