Measuring Mass Psychology
Cybersecurity for Democracy, a research-based US organisation that exposes online threats to the social fabric and recommends how to counter them, published a report in 2021. In its report, the organisation divided different Facebook pages into five categories: Far-right, Right, Moderate, Left and Far-left. After analysing eight million posts over five months, Cybersecurity for Democracy found that fake news on Far-right pages had got maximum engagement. An average of 425 of every 1000 followers like, comment and share such posts. As per the report, engagement per 1,000 followers was just 80 in Moderate pages, 100 in Leftist pages, and 145 in Far-left pages. In other words, these pages, together, managed to attract 75% of the traffic attracted by the Far-right pages.
Sophie Zhang, an American data scientist and whistleblower who formerly worked at the Facebook Site Integrity fake engagement team, had admitted that Facebook allowed thousands of fake Far-right accounts to exist, as these pages managed to attract maximum traffic. Still, the algorithm of Facebook spreads those posts more because of higher engagement. However, no one can correctly measure the psychology of common people on the basis of this engagement.
Interestingly, human psychology is the main issue in the discussion on Social Media. Various research works have revealed that fake news, posted on Far-right pages, are more acceptable to the common public than actual fact. This revelation is unfortunate, but it is the Reality. It tantamounts to the fact that those with lower Intelligence Quotient (IQ) usually like the Far-right Politics. Gordon Hudson and Michael Busceri had measured the IQ of some school students in 2012, and after they were grown-ups, researchers found that those, with lower IQs, believed in Far-right Politics. In other words, those who believe in Far-right Politics have relatively low IQs.
In 2018, six researchers from Ghent University in Belgium published a paper on Emotional Quotient (EQ) and Belief in Right-wing Politics. They, too, mentioned in the paper that a lower level of EQ significantly increases the probability (among the people) of being supporters of Right-wing Politics. The concept of IQ is somewhat easier to understand, as people with a low-average IQ (70-85) tend to finish primary school, though they may need help to do so. They would find University really, really hard. Hence, these people are not so familiar with the outside world mainly because of their lack of knowledge.
The question arises here: What is the relationship between emotion and being a believer in Right-wing Politics? In fact, emotions have a profound effect on human behaviour, affecting one’s ability to make decisions. The lower the EQ, the less control one has over her/his emotions. Such a person easily gets angry, afraid, and decides to take revenge. It is seen that Right-wing Politics seemingly needs these people.
Psychologists have divided the human mind into two distinct processes, and different researchers have used different terms to explain them. Daniel Kahneman (b. March 5, 1934), the Israeli-American psychologist and economist famous for his work on the Psychology of Judgment and Decision-making, as well as Behavioural Economics, used the terms coined by Canadian psychologist Keith E Stanovich and Richard F West. They are System One and System Two. System One is the most rapid and non-thoughtful action of the human brain, while System Two does everything that requires deep thought. System One is the outcome of human evolution, as it governs the fear, alertness and promptness that have kept human beings alive as a species, and helped them make progress ever since.
The words and ideas promoted by Far-right Politics fit into the mantle of System One. The promotion or propaganda is based on fear of the unknown, such as one could kill us, or seize our properties, or take away our girls, among others. Fear is one of our most primitive instincts. Hence, the initial reaction comes from System One, without any thinking and considering the fear as real. Human beings do not think logically then.
On the contrary, System Two is a comparatively slow process. The brain has to work hard to think about something. As a result, System Two cannot take heavy workload or pressure. System Two has limited capacity. What happens when that limit is crossed is called Ego Depletion. According to psychological researchers, one’s willpower is connected to a limited reserve of mental energy, and once one runs out of that energy, s/he is more likely to lose self-control. Then, it may he seen that System Two no longer works. Researchers are of the opinion that IQ starts to decrease when Ego Depletion occurs.
Severe Ego Depletion takes place when one struggles with extreme poverty. In that situation, the IQ of a person with normal intelligence may fall below the level of borderline mental retardation. Meanwhile, System One takes control of one’s brain. It may be seen that the Right-wing Politics needs people, who get frightened comparatively easily. Dr Kaushik Basu, an Indian economist and former Chief Economist of the World Bank, reportedly said that those, who are the biggest supporters of Right-wing Politics, suffered the most from Right-wing Economics. According to Dr Basu, financial distress has always suppressed their intelligence, allowing the Politics of Primitive Instinct to influence them quite easily.
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