Hand, C.J., Scott, G.G., Brodie, Z.P., Ye, X., & Sereno, S.C. (2021). Tweet valence, volume of abuse, and observers’ dark tetrad personality factors influence victim-blaming and the perceived severity of
twitter cyberabuse. Computers in Human Behavior Reports, 3.
Previous research into Twitter cyberabuse has yielded several findings: victim-blaming (VB) was influenced by victims’ initial tweet-valence; perceived severity (PS) was influenced independently by tweet valence and abuse volume; VB and PS were predicted by observer narcissism and psychopathy. However, this previous research was limited by its narrow focus on celebrity victims, and lack of consideration of observer sadism. The current study investigated 125 observers’ VB and PS perceptions of lay-user cyberabuse, and influence of observers’ Dark Tetrad scores (psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, sadism). We manipulated initial-tweet valence (negative, neutral, positive) and received abuse volume (low, high). Our results indicated that VB was highest following negative initial tweets; VB was higher following high-volume abuse. PS did not differ across initial-tweet valences; PS was greater following a high abuse volume. Regression analyses revealed that observer sadism predicted VB across initial-tweet valences; psychopathy predicted PS when initial tweets were ‘emotive’ (negative, positive), whereas Machiavellianism predicted PS when they were neutral. Our results show that perceptions of lay-user abuse are influenced interactively by victim-generated content and received abuse volume. Our current results contrast with perceptions of celebrity-abuse, which is mostly determined by victim-generated content. Findings are contextualised within the Warranting Theory of impression formation.