Flashback Friday: A scientific analysis of internet trolls finds that yes, they’re actually sadistic psychopaths.

By Seriously Science | March 4, 2016 6:00 am
Photo: flickr/Paul VanDerWerf

Photo: flickr/Paul VanDerWerf

Why do internet trolls do what they do? Here, scientists used online surveys to learn more about trolling personalities. Interspersed among questions like  “Do you post comments on websites (e.g., YouTube, news sites, forums, etc.)? (even occasionally?)”  were questions such as “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”, and “The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.” Somewhat unsurprisingly, it turns out that the people who like to troll also score highly on personality measures of sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism (a term used by psychologists to describe a person’s ability to deceive or manipulate others). Don’t click on this.

Trolls just want to have fun

“In two online studies (total N = 1215), respondents completed personality inventories and a survey of their Internet commenting styles. Overall, strong positive associations emerged among online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. 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.”

Related content:
What happens when you give a sadist a cup of bugs and a coffee grinder?
NCBI ROFL: 20% of people who turn to the internet for sexual fulfillment leave dissatisfied.
NCBI ROFL: Introducing…the automatic LOLcat detector!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: the interwebs, told you so
  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    Peer review. Science does not tolerate diversity if diversity means functional incompetence. Save the drama for your mama. Get down and push.

  • http://www.RNA-mediated.com jvkohl

    Like Uncle Al, the other trolls I’ve encountered tend to be biologically uninformed science idiots who cannot link hydrogen-atom transfer in DNA base pairs in solution from nutrient-dependent RNA-mediated amino acid substitutions to cell type differentiation via the physiology of reproduction in all living genera. It’s as if they never learned anything about cell type differentiation after deciding to believe that mutations linked natural selection to increasing organismal complexity. They won’t look at the experimental evidence that links virus-driven craniofacial morphology and brain development to transgenerational epigenetic inheritance from soil microbes to bull sperm via the bull sperm microRNAome.

    • alexa penn

      riiiight. . . it’s been a long time since i took genetics, but i doubt this – well, it’s total gibberish, isn’t it? LOL

      • http://www.RNA-mediated.com jvkohl

        Thanks for asking. It would take minimal effort to perform a google search on any of the terms I used. Start with “RNA mediated” on google or “microRNA” on PubMed.

    • ZippyZion

      When did a short story about psychology turn into a rant on biology? Also the phrase “science idiots” doesn’t help your case. An educated person refers to them as ignorant or scientifically illiterate. Now it’s been a long while since I’ve taken biology but I’m fairly sure that, while chock full of interesting terms, you aren’t making sense. I have little idea as to what you are referring to but really you could have explained these ideas to a “science idiot” in a way they could comprehend, or maybe even provide some context, instead of slapping your huge science epeen on the desk and demanding a validation by measurement.

      • http://www.RNA-mediated.com jvkohl

        Thanks for asking. The need to add the perspective of biology became clear when this paper was retracted.

        “Biomechanical Characteristics of Hand Coordination in Grasping Activities of Daily Living”

        See also: “Paper on PLOS ONE creates a firestorm by referencing “the Creator”

        The authors used the word “Creator” instead of the terms accepted by pseudoscientists “Nature” and evolution. They followed Dobzhansky’s lead from 1964 when he referred to the pseudoscientists as “bird watchers” and “butterfly collectors” to 1973 when he cited work that linked a single amino acid substitution to cell type differences in chimpanzees and modern human populations compared to gorillas.

        Pseudoscientists forced the retraction despite that fact that weekend “evolution” of the bacterial flagellum was reported in the context of two amino acid substitutions.

        • Jeanette Smith Lamb

          Stop feeding the troll!

          • http://www.RNA-mediated.com jvkohl

            See also:

            Amino Acids Rather than Glucose Account for the Majority of Cell Mass in Proliferating Mammalian Cells

            Serious scientists are not going to discuss facts like that with pseudoscientists.

    • Darnel Cooper

      Its Monday,… Not going to even try to put that into common tongue,… Maybe Wednesday.

      • http://www.RNA-mediated.com jvkohl

        Pseudoscientists cannot understand the simplicity of a common tongue that links nutritional epigenetics to the physiology of reproduction. If you tell them that all organisms must eat to reproduce they will still claim that mutations can be linked from natural selection to the evolution of one species from another — given enough time. If you ask how long they can go without eating, they will claim that you don’t understand biologically-based cause and effect in the context of what they were taught to believe.

    • David Williams

      Key words, for those paying attention: “other trolls.” Brilliant. Just brilliant. Trolling an article about how trolls are psychopaths is…gosh…what? Metapsychopathy? It’s almost art. Almost.

  • AG

    Until this internet trolls run into real psychopaths who enjoying taking human life.
    People who do not know how to stay out of trouble will be in trouble some day.

  • sk1951

    Geee Trolls are A-hole idiots… Duhhhh


Seriously, Science?

Seriously, Science?, formerly known as NCBI ROFL, is the brainchild of two prone-to-distraction biologists. We highlight the funniest, oddest, and just plain craziest research from the PubMed research database and beyond. Because nobody said serious science couldn't be silly!
Follow us on Twitter: @srslyscience.
Send us paper suggestions: srslyscience[at]gmail.com.

See More


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

Collapse bottom bar