Growing Outrage

Forthcoming, Behavioural Public Policy

14 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2018  

Cass R. Sunstein

Harvard Law School; Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS)

Date Written: January 5, 2018

Abstract

Why and when does outrage grow? This essay explores two potential answers. The first points to a revision or weakening of social norms, which leads people to express outrage that they had previously suppressed. The second points to a revision or weakening of social norms, which leads people to express outrage that they had not previously felt (and may or may not now feel). The intensity of outrage is often a product of what is most salient. It is also a product of “normalization”; people compare apparently outrageous behavior to behavior falling in the same category in which it is observed, and do not compare it to other cases, which leads to predictable incoherence in judgments. These points bear on the #MeToo movement of 2017 and 2018 and the rise and fall (and rise again, and fall again) of discrimination on the basis of sex and race (and also religion and ethnicity).

Suggested Citation

Sunstein, Cass R., Growing Outrage (January 5, 2018). Forthcoming, Behavioural Public Policy. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3097224

Cass R. Sunstein (Contact Author)

Harvard Law School ( email )

1575 Massachusetts Ave
Areeda Hall 225
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States
617-496-2291 (Phone)

Harvard University - Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) ( email )

79 John F. Kennedy Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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