The Loh Down On Science

What's behind Internet troll behavior is darker than you think!

What makes Internet trolls tick?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science, saying:

You've experienced trolls:  people who will write anything online to make someone else look silly.  These tricksters spew a lot of bile, but what are they like in real life?  Maybe not that different, says a new Canadian study.

Erin Buckels and colleagues describe their results in a paper called "Trolls Just Want to Have Fun."  At trolling's root, the team suspected a toxic stew of traits:  sadism, psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellian manipulation.

To unmask these traits, the team got tricky themselves.  They seeded internet surveys with loaded statements like:  “The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.”  Participants could agree or disagree.

Like trolling itself, the results were not pretty.  Sadism and Machiavellianism strongly predicted trolling enjoyment.  Turns out, the Internet is a great playground for people who like to be mean-spirited and manipulative.  Who knew?

So don’t feed the trolls!  Ignore, don't engage. On Facebook, be a liker, not a hater!  Thank you, smiley face.

***** For more 90-SECOND SCIENCE FACTS, click here.*****

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, in partnership with the University of California, Irvine, and 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.


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