Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn: The Prevalence, Psychology, and Politics of the 'Need for Chaos'

Abstract

People form political attitudes to serve psychological needs. Recent research shows that some individuals have a strong desire to incite chaos when they perceive themselves to be marginalized by society. These individuals tend to see chaos as a way to invert the power structure and gain social status in the process. Analysing data drawn from large-scale representative surveys conducted in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, we identify the prevalence of Need for Chaos across Anglo-Saxon societies. Using Latent Profile Analysis, we explore whether different subtypes underlie the uni-dimensional construct and find evidence that some people may be motivated to seek out chaos because they want to rebuild society, while others enjoy destruction for its own sake. We demonstrate that chaos-seekers are not a unified political group but a divergent set of malcontents. Multiple pathways can lead individuals to “want to watch the world burn.”

Arceneaux, Kevin, Timothy B. Gravelle, Mathias Osmundsen, Michael Bang Petersen, Jason Reifler, and Thomas J. Scotto. 2021. Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn: The Prevalence, Psychology, and Politics of the ?Need for Chaos?. Philosophical Transactions B, 376: 20200147

Kevin (Vin) Arceneaux
Kevin (Vin) Arceneaux
Professor of Political Science

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