We suggest that expressing moral outrage can serve as a form of personal advertisement: People who invest time and effort in condemning those who behave badly are trusted more.
.. Why would a selfless tendency like moral outrage result from the “selfish” process of evolution? One important piece of the answer is that expressing moral outrage actually does benefit you, in the long run, by improving your reputation.
.. Our mathematical model shows that, as a result, choosing to punish wrongdoers can work like a peacock’s tail — if I see you punish misbehavior, I can infer that you are likely to be trustworthy.
.. But we do see this theory as helping to explain why humans developed a psychology of outrage in the first place.
Outrage is a kind of drug, one that gives the illusion of involvement, of caring, when really derives its power from an emotional and informational distance that the stories themselves then strive to deepen, laying the groundwork for the next piece of outrage porn to do its work. And thus proceeds an addictive cycle.