Inequality prospers when successes of advantaged group members (e.g., men, whites) get more attention than equivalent successes of disadvantaged group members (e.g., women, blacks). What determines whose successes individuals deem worth promoting vs. those they ignore? Using hundreds of thousands of tweets from the 2016 Olympics, we show that liberals are much more likely than conservatives to shine a spotlight on black and female (vs. white and male) US gold medalists. Two further experiments provide evidence that such differential amplification of successful targets is driven by a motivation—higher among liberals—to raise disadvantaged groups’ standing in service of equality. We find that liberals drive differential amplification more than conservatives and establish a behavioral mechanism through which liberals’ egalitarian motives manifest.Abstract
Recent years have witnessed an increased public outcry in certain quarters about a perceived lack of attention given to successful members of disadvantaged groups relative to equally meritorious members of advantaged groups, exemplified by social media campaigns centered around hashtags, such as #OscarsSoWhite and #WomenAlsoKnowStuff. Focusing on political ideology, we investigate here whether individuals differentially amplify successful targets depending on whether these targets belong to disadvantaged or advantaged groups, behavior that could help alleviate or entrench group-based disparities. Study 1 examines over 500,000 tweets from over 160,000 Twitter users about 46 unambiguously successful targets varying in race (white, black) and gender (male, female): American gold medalists from the 2016 Olympics. Leveraging advances in computational social science, we identify tweeters’ political ideology, race, and gender. Tweets from political liberals were much more likely than those from conservatives to be about successful black (vs. white) and female (vs. male) gold medalists (and especially black females), controlling for tweeters’ own race and gender, and even when tweeters themselves were white or male (i.e., advantaged group members). Studies 2 and 3 provided experimental evidence that liberals are more likely than conservatives to differentially amplify successful members of disadvantaged (vs. advantaged) groups and suggested that this is driven by liberals’ heightened concern with social equality. Addressing theorizing about ideological asymmetries, we observed that political liberals are more responsible than conservatives for differential amplification. Our results highlight ideology’s polarizing power to shape even whose accomplishments we promote, and extend theorizing about behavioral manifestations of egalitarian motives.