Study Shockingly Suggests Internet Trolls May Not Be Very Nice Or Particularly Mentally Healthy In Real Life

from the you-don't-say dept

A new study from the University of Manitoba has shockingly claimed to have found that the Internet trolls we all know or love so well may not be very nice -- or particularly mentally healthy -- individuals in real life. The study tried to explore whether or not Internet trolls fell into 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). The study (mostly survey, really) claims to have found:
"... correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet."
It's worth noting that the survey found, by and large, that most people online are perfectly reasonable and decent human beings. At the very least they're just quiet lurkers:
"To be sure, 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."
The study appears to rely heavily on subjects pulled from Amazon's Mechanical Turk, who may not be a good control representative of what constitutes normal behavior, either online or off. The study also appears to be rather heavily reliant on simply asking people if they liked to be jerks on the Internet -- which if I were an Internet troll, I'm not sure I'd answer correctly. Reading their analysis and methodology, it's not clear to me if the researchers did (or could) calculate how anonymity can turn a relatively normal person into a blathering jackass (as this classic Penny Arcade comic illustrates in deep scientific detail).

Is somebody necessarily a sadist offline because anonymity turns them into a jerk when they're online? Isn't it possible that people act worse online because the sense of anonymity gives them the belief they're free from repercussion and can therefore experiment with darker, but not necessarily dominant, aspects of their personality they'd fear to explore offline? Wouldn't that especially be true of children, who may express anger at their lack of power through online rage, but develop into perfectly normal people as they age?

You can dig through the full methodology yourself, assuming you're smart enough, professor. Those shoes make you look fat. I'd also like to point out that the Beatles sucked, Internet Explorer is the vastly superior browser, the RIAA makes a lot of solid points based on sound scientific data, the Comcast merger will help cure cancer and save puppies, and my little sister is much better than you are at this game, bro.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 7:41pm

    Study shockingly suggests that dogs have good hearing

    Better than humans even!!!

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 7:50pm

    This article is almost what you would call 'troll bait'. I'm sure some mileage could be made off of it in that direction.

    I'm not surprised at the amount of people that lurk or the amount that troll by the numbers given. They actually support what you normally see as a slice of net life.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 8:02pm

    The only reason we have a troll problem, is because people keep feeding them.

     

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  4.  
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    Zos (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:04pm

    Boing boing said it best a couple weeks ago-
    "scientists say trolls are vicious sadists"
    Trolls say "thank you, good sir".

    i don't think i'm a sadist, i can barely beat my wife as hard as she prefers, i just enjoy seeing stupid people dringing themselves to stroke over things people say to them on the interwebz.

    or herping deserving derps...if i don't make fun of anti vaxxers, creationists, lawyers and other scum...who will?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
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    Zos (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:05pm

    Re:

    bringing* i think. it's late here, i might have over edited myself there.

     

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  6.  
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    droozilla (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:06pm

    tl;dr of all tl;dr

    Study shows 'haters gonna hate'.

     

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  7.  
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    jupiterkansas (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:53pm

    All I know is blue has been absent since this study hit the news, so...

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Deluded voter, Feb 28th, 2014 @ 9:56pm

    Thanks Obama!

    Just more evidence of the failure of obamacare. The lies on Benghazi. Muslims. And Jesus. And god. And the bible. And flags. Cuz 'MURICA!

     

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  9.  
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    Greevar (profile), Feb 28th, 2014 @ 10:20pm

    I guess that means that OOTB must be having a climax when spewing hate in comments.

     

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  10.  
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    Todd Knarr (profile), Mar 1st, 2014 @ 12:15am

    Character

    "Character is what you are in the dark."

    If you're a nice person who turns into a flaming jerkwad when you think nobody can know who you are, you're not in fact a nice person. You're just a flaming jerkwad who's good at covering it up because you'd be ashamed for people to know you're a flaming jerkwad. This is why so many "apologies" for incredibly stupid unintentionally-public statements are phrased the way they are: the people who made them aren't actually ashamed to have made the statement, they're just ashamed that their having said it became public knowledge.

    NB: everybody has at least a bit of this flaw in them. The key is to just man up and accept this fact. It'll get you a bit more respect, and give you the chance to direct your attitude at targets that've done something to deserve it.

     

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  11.  
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    Someone, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 12:57am

    Insulting?

    You forgot to mention how fat my mamma is!

     

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  12.  
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    FM Hilton, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 1:40am

    Anonymous is a flaw

    There is one problem with the idea that trolls can be totally anonymous on-line, as suggested-there is no true anonymity on the internet any more.

    Somewhere, someone has something on you. No matter what anyone says there is no true hiding on-line anymore.

    So one can troll all you like. Just be careful of where it is you do it, because karma is a bitch if you cross the wrong line and piss off the wrong person. Your IP can be traced to a physical address. ISPs can track you down.

    So be a jerk, narcissistic and savage all you want. Just don't complain when it catches up to you.

     

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  13.  
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    trollerhttp://www.techdirt.com/register.php?nextur, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 2:30am

    Re:

    Seriously i have been caught in a conversation online only to realsie that it is someone trolling me, very frustrating but easily ignored. But then again i can just troll back getting the troll pissed off and upset, a nice game to play actually if i can be bothered to.

    I have trolled a few times when people are being stupid about something but only a few times and only when i am pissed of with life in general...saying that i think the last time i trolled someone was years ago...family life being what it is i rarely get time to waste on the internet and when i do i would rather spend it having fun not trolling people.

     

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  14.  
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    trollerhttp://www.techdirt.com/register.php?nextur, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 2:42am

    Re: Anonymous is a flaw

    I remember this one dude being very clever and managing to get me to install a virus on my computer giving him full control..he was crying on the phone when i called him and advised him i would get him blacklisted on every isp in the country, which was only about 4 of them at the time...what pleasure it was to let him know i was monitoring his ip address and had warned all other isp to watch out for him.
    yes he had a changing ip address yes he could use encryption software yes he could complain...but at the time i could not monitor him, i was trolling ad in a good way i think.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 2:58am

    Re: Anonymous is a flaw

    lol.

    Implying everything on the internet is to be taken seriously. Implying just because you take it personally that it is personal. Implying a person will be tracked down because of your butthurt.



    The real narcissists are the ones who believe it's all about them. The ones who expect and demand that the world revolves around their butthurt so everyone must act accordingly.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 3:17am

    Pepper spray cop, Little Face Mitt.....etc.......etc....etc...

    Trolling is an art. Usually done for fun.




    The only real question is....does the target deserve it?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 4:50am

    Re:

    Study suggests dogs bark

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
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    PaulT (profile), Mar 1st, 2014 @ 5:35am

    Re:

    "Pepper spray cop, Little Face Mitt.....etc.......etc....etc..."

    Erm, you do know that mocking a public figure is not trolling, right? The word means something totally different.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
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    Nicolas, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 5:48am

    What

    As if there is an agreed upon definition of a troll, or that psychiatrists donít label everything a mental disorder.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 7:03am

    What kind of trolls are we talkin 'bout?
    The old trolls were actually funny, but these days you can call every annoying fucker a troll so it kinda lost its meaning.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 7:21am

    Did the study show how many trolls are cops?

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 7:22am

    the study design questions here remind me of hearing about the early days of polling, right after ww2 ended, as corporations turned from the war effort to trying to get back on their feet in the business world.

    chrysler had built tanks and who-knows-what through the war years and wanted to hit the ground running when they returned to producing autos.† the survey was a new idea, and chrysler hired one of the polling agencies to find out what kind of car america wanted.† so the agency simply asked people what sort of car they wanted, and sensible, boxsy cars resulted.† check out the '50 plymouth, say.† and the company almost went under, so i was told.

    the pollsters didn't give up.† they redesigned the survey and asked people what the neighbor across the street wanted.† long, low, fast, and impressive.† lots of gadgets.† check out the '57 plymouth, say.† saved the company, so i was told.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 7:52am

    Re: Character

    My songs know what you did in the dark.
    So light 'em up, up, up
    Light 'em up, up, up
    Light 'em up, up, up...

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 7:58am

    Re: Anonymous is a flaw (Am not!)

    That underscores the importance of proxies, VPNs, encryption, and so forth. No, nothing is 100% foolproof, but you should do whatever you can. (And if you were fortunate enough to be able to sign up with a small-town ISP under an alias and fake address and pay your monthly bill in cash, that helps too.)

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 8:17am

    OR... Are trolls the healthy ones...

    And all the whiners who can't take words being thrown at them just a bunch of pussies?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 8:20am

    I rolled the fabled Dark Tetrad once in D&D. Sandbagged everybody in my party and took their skills. FTW!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 8:47am

    These researchers are now free to examine the effects, if any, that bringing up or comparing someone's views to those of "nazi germany" has on an internet discussion group.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 10:07am

    Or they could be just NSA or FBI agents in disguise trying to sway public opinion.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Re: Anonymous is a flaw

    What do you mean by "my" ip?

    If I was gonna do anything that could bite me in the ass, it'd be done through someone elses ip

    But you're probably right as most trolls are idiots

     

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  30.  
    icon
    Zos (profile), Mar 1st, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Re: Character

    i'm an asshole, and i'm ok with that, but i try to only be an asshole to the deserving.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 11:41am

    Re: Re: Anonymous is a flaw

    Yeah, and at what datetime was that supposedly "my IP" and what evidence is there in support of this accusation?

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 11:44am

    I think the University of Manitoba is trolling.

     

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  33.  
    identicon
    DMNTD, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 4:12pm

    see

    They are mostly damaged, statist, bootlicking, cointel-pro fops. So I concur. Whats really sad, is a small percentage actually do it for free.

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2014 @ 6:57pm

    Re: Insulting?

    you momma so fat, when she sits around on the internet, she sit's around the internet
    Sorry, when I see a slow pitch I have to swing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 12:31am

    Well, that'd explain average_joe, out_of_the_blue, horse with no name/Just Sayin' and darryl pretty accurately.

     

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  36.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 9:42am

    How does this study mesh with Anonymous? That mass of trolls is now doing things such as trying to make life better for the homeless, fighting against rapists, and fighting against child pornographers.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 3:42pm

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 4:55pm

    Re:

    "Is now doing things"? You're kidding, right? That ship sailed long ago; now the most important thing to them is continuing to further their international impression as people who troll other people for laughs.

    Sure, they did a couple things that everyone thought was good, but that's largely only because they happened to troll people that a majority of society consider morally reprehensible. Try to suggest that this is what they should be doing, and you'll see the fanboys crawl out of the woodwork, whining that "Anonymous isn't your personal army".

    Which is just as well. Nobody wants a personal army whose sole aim is to dox you for laughs, ruin your reputation in any way possible, and harass you just for questioning their methodologies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    icon
    John Fenderson (profile), Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 5:47pm

    Re: Re:

    Yes. Essentially, anonymous has appears to have been crushed under the overwhelming weight of their own trolls.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 9:15pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    When your methodology is to fuck shit up, then claim that since anyone can be Anonymous they can't be described, accounted for, hold responsible or disagreed with for fucking shit up, everyone is going to look like a nail to be hammered.

    So yes, they were their own worst enemy, falling on their own double-edged sword.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 10:18pm

    Shaming pedophiles via aggressive trolling doesn't make the trolls bad people.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 11:37pm

    Re: Re:

    i see what you did there

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Rebel Siren, Mar 2nd, 2014 @ 11:45pm

    Internet Trolls

    Most internet trolls are actually paid "forum posters" that have been recruited to scour the internet and infiltrate social media. http://rebelsiren.wordpress.com/2014/01/22/dispelling-internet-disinformation-tactics-debunking-the- debunkers/

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Pragmatic, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 4:49am

    Re:

    She certainly is conspicuous by her absence. I think we should stop baiting her, though. I'm loving how the discourse on this site has improved lately. It's nice to see well-argued points being made.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 4:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    You're trolling - right?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 4:54am

    Re: Internet Trolls

    Wouldn't those people be referred to as shills?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 7:30am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    How is that trolling?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 10:13am

    Re: Re: Character

    Throw your hands up

    Tell security we gonna tear this club up



    GIRL YOU KNOW I LIKE THE WAY YOU SHAKE IT IN DEM JEANS!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 10:16am

    Re:

    Why do they call it Invincible's Reins if I can see it?

    Why do they call it an Xbox 360? Because you wanna turn around 360 degrees and walk away!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  50.  
    icon
    Ferel (profile), Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re:

    Man, I still get a kick from those.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  51.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Mar 3rd, 2014 @ 3:39pm

    my little sister is much better than you are at this game, bro.

    Ouch.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 6th, 2014 @ 2:09am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's not trolling if it's not only accurate, but also the exact same thing Anonymous crows with triumph about. "We will fuck you up, and you can't account for all of us because we're Anonymous. We will stymie every attempt you make that even remotely looks like a challenge or disagreement to us fucking you up."

    Sounds like someone's a fanboy.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  53.  
    identicon
    Mike, Jun 22nd, 2014 @ 10:46am

    This sounds pretty unscientific. How do you define a troll? Does everyone have to think he's a troll, or just a few?

    It also seems very self-serving to say "someone made me mad. Therefore he has problems [in real life]". Because wouldn't that make you feel good? To have some dirt IRL next time that troll pops up. Probably not going to happen.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 25th, 2014 @ 12:28am

    just because someone disagree with you and you're mad at it doesn't make the person a troll.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  55.  
    identicon
    SfcJ, Feb 25th, 2015 @ 4:47pm

    aWOU

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    SfcJ, Feb 25th, 2015 @ 4:47pm

    aWOU.'"'."]""'

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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