Internet Trolls Are Narcissists, Psychopaths And Sadists (Says Science)

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Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response.

In this month's issue of Personality and Individual Differencesa study was published that confirms what we all suspected: Internet trolls are horrible people. 

Let's start by getting our definitions straight.

An Internet troll is someone who comes into a discussion and posts comments designed to upset or disrupt the conversation. Often, in fact, it seems like there is no real purpose behind their comments except to upset everyone else involved. Trolls will lie, exaggerate, and offend to get a response. 

What kind of person would do this and is there a method for how to stop internet trolls? Some Canadian researchers decided to find out.

They conducted two online studies with over 1,200 people, giving personality tests to each subject along with a survey about their Internet commenting behavior. They were looking for evidence that linked trolling with the "Dark Tetrad" of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism. 

They found that Dark Tetrad scores were highest among people who said trolling was their favorite Internet activity. To get an idea of how much more prevalent these traits were among Internet trolls, see this figure from the paper.

RELATED: Internet Trolls Called Me a Psycho, But I Won't Let Them Win!

Look at how low the Dark Tetrad scores are for everyone except the trolls! Their scores for all four traits soar on the chart. The relationship between trolling and the Dark Tetrad is so significant that the authors write in their paper: "...the associations between sadism and GAIT (Global Assessment of Internet Trolling) scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists."

Trolls truly enjoy making you feel bad. To quote the authors once more (because this is a truly quotable article), "Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others. Sadists just want to have fun... and the Internet is their playground!"

RELATED: The 4 Zodiac Signs Are Most Likely To Troll Your A$$

So, if you want to know how to stop Internet trolls, the next time you encounter one online, remember:

  1. These trolls are some truly difficult people.
  2. It is your suffering that brings them pleasure, so the best thing you can do is ignore them. 

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Jennifer Golbeck is Director of the Social Intelligence Lab and an Associate Professor in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Her research focuses on building artificial intelligence that works with social media, privacy, and the psychology of internet use.

This article was originally published at Psychology Today. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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