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The "disinhibition effect" as a psychological phenomenon has been studied for many years. The disinhibition effect refers to the behavior individuals exhibit under the influence of alcohol or drugs, for example, that is much different than had the effects of those substances not been a factor. It is, in short, the old "alcohol releases inhibitions" syndrome. One of the main subcategories of the disinheriting effect is referred to as “dissociative anonymity,” which is precisely that phenomenon of acting more boldly or brazenly in the relative comfort of the anonymity the internet provides than than would be normal for that particularly individual.
A 2007 article in The Encyclopedia of Psychology described the disinheriting effect as follows:
“…if inhibition is when behavior is constrained or restrained through self-consciousness, anxiety about social situations, worries about public evaluation, and so on, then disinheriting can be characterized by an absence or reversal of these same factors…With regard to an individual’s behavior on the Internet, disinheriting could be summarized as behavior that is less inhibited than comparative behavior in real life.”
An example of the disinheriting effect, then, could involve cyber bullying, in which individuals taunt and humiliate a third person while remaining safely hidden behind the cloak of anonymity provided by the internet. Bullies who seek to humiliate their victims over the internet would be much less likely to conduct themselves in such an inappropriate manner if their activities were public knowledge.
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