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The Internet Science

Psychologists: Internet Trolls Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic 293

Posted by Soulskill
from the in-related-news-psychologists-have-had-many-pizzas-sent-to-their-house dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chris Mooney reports at Slate that research conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba confirmed that people who engage in internet trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others). In the study, trolls were identified in a variety of ways. One was by simply asking survey participants what they 'enjoyed doing most' when on online comment sites, offering five options: 'debating issues that are important to you,' 'chatting with others,' 'making new friends,' 'trolling others,' and 'other.' The study recruited participants from Amazon's Mechanical Turk website and two measures of sadistic personality were administered (PDF): the Short Sadistic Impulse Scale and the Varieties of Sadistic Tendencies Scale. Only 5.6 percent of survey respondents actually specified that they enjoyed 'trolling.' By contrast, 41.3 percent of Internet users were 'non-commenters,' meaning they didn't like engaging online at all. So trolls are, as has often been suspected, a minority of online commenters, and an even smaller minority of overall Internet users. Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. 'Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun ... and the Internet is their playground!' The study comes as websites are increasingly weighing steps to rein in trollish behavior but the study authors aren't sure that fix is a realistic one. 'Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users),' says Buckels. 'Ultimately, the allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner.' Perhaps posting rights should only be unlocked if you pass a test."
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Psychologists: Internet Trolls Are Narcissistic, Psychopathic, and Sadistic

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  • by mysidia (191772) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @03:07PM (#46255447)

    Only 5.6 percent of survey respondents actually specified that they enjoyed 'trolling.' By contrast, 41.3 percent of Internet users were 'non-commenters,' meaning they didn't like engaging online at all. So trolls are, as has often been suspected, a minority of online commenters

    I will contend that a majority of persistent "trolls" would not necessarily answer on a survey that they enjoy trolling.

    (1) You will have trolls that claim to be 'debating issues that are important to you' ---- such as the poor speling or grammars of the postes that your are replying to.

    (2) You will have trolls that claim to be just 'chatting with others' --- a lie, because they don't want to admit on a survey that they actually enjoy trolling. It's all just innocent chatter.

    (3) You will have trolls that claim to be just 'making new friends' --- because they see the reponse as ironic and sarcastic, AND they being trolls -- they are going to try and troll the survey in order to skew your data.

    (4) You may also have intentional or unintentional occasional trolls that truthfully DO primarily do one of the first 3 things, and they identify themselves as doing those things moreso than trolling.

    (5) "Troll" is lingo --- you may have people who enjoy trolling, who have absolutely no idea what the word 'Troll' means.

  • Pretty much all these quantitative sociology studies turn out to be questionable. Between populations of convenience and these hokey numerical personality tests, the results don't inspire that much confidence.

    Even though in my day job I do statistics, when it comes to social science I often find qualitative anthropology/ethnography-style research, where researchers actually get out there in communities, try to understand them, and talk to people, quite a bit more informative. Especially for preliminary understanding where it's not often even clear what a phenomenon's broad characteristics are, and therefore difficult to design an intelligent quantitative study with useful metrics.

    Alas, this kind of stuff gets more citations and press, because sampling 5000 people and rating them on a 0.0 to 10.0 personality scale using a questionnaire seems superficially more scientific... 'cause it's got numbers.

  • by shiftless (410350) on Saturday February 15, 2014 @06:04PM (#46256403) Homepage

    Seems like any time I comment on a discussion and have the nerve to express an opinion that is contrary to the prevailing groupthink, there's always some douchebag who calls me a troll. And here I was thinking that a "troll" is somebody who says things in a carefully crafted manner specifically designed to piss people off. Nowadays it means "anyone who says anything my huge overblown ego doesn't want to hear."

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