Social Categorization, Moral Disengagement, and Credibility of Ideological Group Websites

Academic Article


  • Abstract. The online presence of ideological groups has enabled the dissemination of group beliefs and ideas through a variety of new media outlets. Websites have offered a way for these groups to share aspects of their ideology and to create a sense of shared identity. While ideological groups have been of interest for decades, little empirical research has examined their online presence. The aims of this study were to compare nonviolent and violent ideological group websites with each other and with nonideological websites with respect to social categorization, moral disengagement, and website credibility, and to examine the relationships of psychological processes to website credibility. A content analysis approach was used to rate 105 websites (violent = 32, nonviolent = 36; nonideological = 37) for aspects of social categorization, outgrouping, moral disengagement, content features of credibility, and structural features of credibility. Violent ideological group websites manifest a greater degree of social categorization, outgrouping, and moral disengagement than nonviolent ideological and nonideological websites. Regression analysis shows that these three variables negatively predict content and structural website credibility for nonviolent ideological groups but do not significantly predict website credibility for violent groups or nonideological groups. Potential limitations include small sample, use of raters (vs. normative website visitors) to evaluate websites, inclusion of only English-language websites, limited number of psychological processes examined and the potential need for more specific website categories. Social identity processes on websites vary for different types of groups and impact perceived credibility of such groups in online environments.
  • Authors

  • Connelly, Shane
  • Dunbar, Norah E
  • Jensen, Matthew L
  • Griffith, Jennifer
  • Taylor, William D
  • Johnson, Genevieve
  • Hughes, Michael
  • Mumford, Michael D
  • Status

    Publication Date

  • 2016
  • Published In


  • ideological groups
  • ideological websites
  • psychological processes
  • social identity
  • website credibility
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Start Page

  • 16
  • End Page

  • 31
  • Volume

  • 28
  • Issue

  • 1