Experience has taught us that people will often employ outrage and hyperbole, often in the form of public shaming, to convince others rather than construct a sound argument. There may be several reasons for this. The research suggests that people generally find it easier to remain in the brain's equivalent of autopilot (system 1) than to employ slow, deliberate, analytical reasoning (system 2). [See Kahneman, "Fast and slow Thinking"] It seems that system 1 is the default. It may simply be that many find it easier to appeal to emotion than to do the mental calculus required to appeal to logical validity. Moreover, appealing to emotion persuades audiences more often than logic for the same reason.

        Most of us notice early in our careers as Homo sapiens that by appealing to pathos and ethos, we can gain an immediate and substantial payoff in return for little effort. Valid logical reasoning, fact-checking, and careful introspection seem to come less naturally to us. And so, whether consciously or subconsciously, we learn the subtle art of persuasion. We learn how to appeal to the gut rather than the brain. Public shaming is perhaps the best example.

        Public shaming is often used to silence dissent, to grant one's argument immunity from public criticism and deprive others of the opportunity to have their voices heard. In such cases, the desired effect is to use outrage to bypass the cognitive faculties of an impressionable audience. It is a way of assuming what one should be trying to prove in such a way that people don't even notice that one has left out the argument. But beyond the attraction of being able to manipulate the emotions of one's audience, there may be an additional motivation for public shaming, one that people sometimes overlook, and that is outrage addiction.

        If you look around on social media sites, you'll likely soon discover several examples of outrage junkies, people who are regularly outraged over one issue or another and seem to be drawn to any chance to claim outrage. There are probably several motivating factors for outrage junkies, the most compelling probably being that it is cathartic. Outrage junkies get their fix from a heady mix of schadenfreude and the immediate sense of power they obtain by claiming moral superiority. This includes the feeling that one can be rude without the normal restraint of social etiquette once one has labeled another as morally inferior to oneself. This is where the real catharsis begins.

        In the Middle Ages people would often gather with a sense of glee to witness, and in some cases participate in, the inflicting of torture and slow death on a person as soon as she had been labeled a heretic or witch. In many cases, ethical restraint and compassion went straight out the window.

        It is not unreasonable to assume that modern people have many of the same motivations and cognitive biases as their medieval predecessors. The only course of treatment so far (assuming one is unhappy with this state of affairs) seems to be education, the rigorous exercise of critical thinking, and introspection. Physicist and Nobel laureate Richard Feynman once said, "The first principle is that you must not fool yourself -- and you are the easiest person to fool."

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Comment by Chris on January 13, 2018 at 8:01am

The FFRF and MRFF both are valuable groups.

The following link may be of interest to some


Look around to to see outrage in everyday life.  Meanness and discourtiness  doesn't have a single root based on religion.

Comment by Loren Miller on January 13, 2018 at 6:57am

Outrage is natural in the current day, for there is a lot to be outraged about.  The question becomes: do you just rant about it, or do you take arms against it?  By now, I would hope we all know the old saw, "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."  A lot of people either think there's nothing they can do or that any action they take will be swallowed up by the negativity, leaving them impotent.

I'm here to tell them that they are wrong.  As a member of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, I participate in an organization which regularly deals with state / church issues and WINS.  I also write – my senators, congresspeople, and at least two letters to the editor of the Plain Dealer, and seen one published.  If I can act, I do act because if nothing changes, nothing changes.  That hurts everyone, ME INCLUDED.

So ask yourself: are you going to DO something about what's wrong or are you just going to bitch about it?

Comment by Chris on January 12, 2018 at 9:36pm


Sorry to jump into the middle of a conversation without knowledge of the background.

I'm likely jumping out of place to  I ask if passive agressive behavior is a way to elicite outrage. Then further question if passive agressives outrage junkies?

Comment by Michael Penn on December 24, 2017 at 8:31am

Public shaming has really taken a hold in the world of social media. Humans appear so overjoyed with this that it is spilling over into our daily lives in violent ways. I wonder how long it will take for this to end up much like it was in the Middle Ages. It all seems helped along by the fact that our laws are being changed or denied. Privilege by racial association seems to be at the top of the list. Add fear and you find enough to keep us all at odds for millennia once again.

A big problem with it today is using this to manipulate us. Regardless of how far it will go I see it as people control. Your last paragraph sums it all up nicely.

Comment by Joan Denoo on December 21, 2017 at 2:06am

I very much like what you wrote, and I feel some guilt as I read it. Someone asked me to give evidence for my opinion the other day, and I can't find who that person was; perhaps it was you. I wrote a response at once saying that it was a fair request and I was distracted by another topic. I forgot who made a claim and I cannot find my response. I suspect that I deleted it before I finished writing it. I can't remember the topic.

So, if you are the one asking for evidence, I am sorry I did not finish and send my response. If you are not the one who made the request, perhaps I can find out who it is that I failed to answer.  

Now, on to your topic today, I agree with you on all points. I am daily outraged about something I read in the news. I can't believe what I read and look for a video of the outrageous act, or look for some direct quote.

In the case of Trump and his policies and practices, I take the shortcut and express my outrage, figuring I don't need to explain why it is so evident to me.

Or some judge makes a ruling that is obscene, i.e., a little girl or boy "caused the sexual arousal of some man and he couldn't help himself. EXCUSE ME!!!  IS THE ADULT NOT CAPABLE OF SELF CONTROL?!!!  IS THE JUDGE BLAMING THE CHILD AND NOT THE ADULT?!!!! for misconduct?!!!

Or the men and WOMEN who claim the ways women dress invite rape. EXCUSE ME!!!!  That is outrageous!!!!

I traveled extensively in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. For some reason, women have to cover their faces, arms, and legs because men can't control their actions! When are Muslim men who think like that going to GROW UP?!!!  

Or the mother, father, relative, neighbor, teacher, preacher, priest or stranger who sexually or physically abuse a child or a low functioning adult is as guilty of a crime as is the person who blows up a bus station. 

Comment by Easton Le on December 20, 2017 at 11:32pm

I wanted to comment on your blog and Frankie Dapper's comment but I couldn't find a button for each. =(

@Wyatt: I really enjoyed your blog. When I was in the military, a First Sergeant made similar observations which he also called Outrage Junkies. He said for certain people in the world that rage is intoxicating. Once you get on the fix you want more and more of it. It just feels good, especially when you begin to think you have gained a position of power because of it.

However, I think you made stronger arguments than my First Sergeant. Not only is outrage satisfying, but it's easier to do. Reasoning takes work. But I think I have one thing to add to the conversation: it also requires discipline and patience. Thinking rationally about something requires you to plan long term, then implement those plans through the ups and downs. That is just plain hard, even for people who value thinking things through.

@Frankie Dapper: You are so right. I would recommend a book to you (if you haven't read it already), called Power, by Bertrand Russell. It explores topics such as discussed in Wyatt's blog, as well as things you pointed out in your comment.

Comment by Frankie Dapper on December 19, 2017 at 9:13pm

Your ideas are consistent with the practice and experience of religious and political leaders. 

Reason is the devil's whore. Lets make america great again. Deutschland uber alles. 

Nations use propaganda and defamation to make it easier to kill the enemy. Political parties use code words and lies to rile up their followers.  

Seems like we humans have more monkey in us than monkeys.  Perhaps if monkeys had something more puissant than feces they would be closer to humans. 

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