People who support hacking network Anonymous are more likely to be angry about perceived societal injustices and feel disconnected from the political process, new research by a psychologist at the University of Kent has shown.
Researcher Dr Giovanni Travaglino carried out two studies, in the UK and US, to investigate support for Anonymous and establish why people held these attitudes.
He found that in both national contexts anger against the political system was the common factor in explaining the relationship between people's belief that they could or could not influence political affairs and their attitude toward Anonymous.
Those who took part in the two studies who reported feeling angry and powerless to change their political context were more likely to express their dissent vicariously, in the form of support for Anonymous, rather than engaging directly in the political processes (for instance, by voting or protesting).
This finding was consistent with what is known as 'Social Banditry' theory, whereby political grievances that cannot be otherwise voiced trigger anger against the political system, which in turn promote support for disruptive social actors, 'social bandits'.
Dr Travaglino, of Kent's School of Psychology, said the findings suggest that Anonymous are seen as 'social bandits' - the modern-day equivalent of figures such as Robin Hood or Jesse James who have traditionally been celebrated in local folklore as noble individuals who robbed the rich and gave to the poor.
The research also found that people who considered themselves to have an individualistic outlook were more likely to have a supportive attitude to groups like Anonymous.
In contrast, people with a collective view of society had stronger intentions to engage in direct political engagement, such as voting or participate in a public demonstration.
This finding reflects Anonymous' role as channel for an individualistic desire of revenge against the system, rather than a programme for collective and institutional social change and improvement.
The research, entitled Support for Anonymous and Vicarious Dissent: Testing the Social Banditry Framework (G. Travaglino) is published in the journal Group Processes and Intergroup Relations.
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Notes to editor
Established in 1965, the University of Kent - the UK's European university - now has almost 20,000 students across campuses or study centres at Canterbury, Medway, Tonbridge, Brussels, Paris, Athens and Rome.
It has been ranked: 23rd in the Guardian University Guide 2016; 23rd in the Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016; and 22nd in the Complete University Guide 2015.
In the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2015-16, Kent is in the top 10% of the world's leading universities for international outlook and 66th in its table of the most international universities in the world. The THE also ranked the University as 20th in its 'Table of Tables' 2016.
Kent is ranked 17th in the UK for research intensity (REF 2014). It has world-leading research in all subjects and 97% of its research is deemed by the REF to be of international quality.
In the National Student Survey 2016, Kent achieved the fourth highest score for overall student satisfaction, out of all publicly funded, multi-faculty universities.
Along with the universities of East Anglia and Essex, Kent is a member of the Eastern Arc Research Consortium (http://www.
The University is worth £0.7 billion to the economy of the south east and supports more than 7,800 jobs in the region. Student off-campus spend contributes £293.3m and 2,532 full-time-equivalent jobs to those totals. In 2014, Kent received its second Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education.