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Study: Internet Trolls Are Also Terrible In Real Life


Offbeat  (tags: offbeat, internet, technology, bullying, trolls, online )

Robert
- 1968 days ago - pcmag.com
Internet trolls and video game griefers are just as broken in real life as you've always suspected, according to a new psychology paper by Canadian researchers.



   

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Robert O (12)
Sunday February 23, 2014, 1:51 pm
Study: Internet Trolls Are Also Terrible In Real Life

Internet trolls and video game griefers are just as broken in real life as you've always suspected, according to a new psychology paper by Canadian researchers. It turns out that the same folks who love to disrupt online conversations for the "lulz" are likely to also exhibit some pretty nasty personality traits in general.

Two online studies led by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba established "strong positive associations" between "online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures," the researchers wrote in an abstract of their paper.

The upshot was that although Internet trolls are a small minority of overall Internet participants, those respondents to the team's surveys who self-identified as enjoying disrupting online communities also scored highly in the "Dark Tetrad" of personality traits, the researchers found.

"[T]rolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores," they wrote. Which is to say, the respondents who identified themselves as trolls also indicated that they enjoy making others suffer, lack remorse and empathy, and have no problem with manipulating and lying to people to achieve their ends.

The fourth trait of the Dark Tetrad is narcissism, which was also displayed in buckets by respondents who cited "trolling" as their favorite activity when commenting online, as indicated in the graph at right.

Slate's Chris Mooney, who dissected the study last week, noted that 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."

Indeed, as the abstract notes:

"Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism."

The good news is that really dedicated trolls appear to be fairly uncommon in the online world, at least in terms of their numbers if not their output. As Mooney noted, the researchers found that just 58.7 percent of survey respondents who said they used the Internet also indicated that they commented in online forums. Of those, just 5.6 percent said they enjoyed trolling.

Still, the fact that even that small number of people self-identified as trolls is pretty disturbing, when you consider the survey hoops they had to jump through to convince the researchers they were dead serious about how much they loved being despicable jerks on the Internet.

Here are some of the questions asked by Buckels and her colleagues in their Global Assessment of Internet Trolling, or GAIT survey tool for identifying the truly trollish, as cited by Slate:

-I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz.
-I like to troll people in forums or the comments section of websites.
-I enjoy griefing other players in multiplayer games.
-The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.

So can anything be done about the troll problem? Short of eliminating commenting and other forms of interactive participation with users, which some websites have done, there really isn't much that can be done, according to Buckels.

"Because the behaviors are intrinsically motivating for sadists, comment moderators will likely have a difficult time curbing trolling with punishments (e.g., banning users)," Slate quoted her as saying. "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."
 

JL A (281)
Sunday February 23, 2014, 4:04 pm
An illuminating study that several publications have chosen to write about and members post as they find them. Perhaps knowing this will help all others cope with it when we encounter it.
 

David C (25)
Monday February 24, 2014, 12:52 am
as if it would take (more) studies to know that water is wet.
 

kelly s (134)
Monday February 24, 2014, 7:31 am
How interesting and very sad that there is idiots out there trying to make people suffer,when they could be doing something constructive with their time.
I find it very hard not to bite back,which then becomes my problem.
Thank you so much for sharing and my dear friend who forwarded it to me.
 

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Monday February 24, 2014, 4:32 pm
Yes, Kelly S, one often must avoid being pulled into responding to their bait, it is as if they are setting a trap and then they are waiting for an angry response. I suspect that it bothers them if they are truly ignored.
 

Lynda G (123)
Monday February 24, 2014, 4:42 pm
I agree completely with the whole article, but the last sentence has me in fits!

"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."

How on Earth does one express their sadistic interests in a socially-desirable manner?!
 
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