In the past few years, the science of Internet trollology has made some strides. Last year, for instance, we learned that by hurling insults and inciting discord in online comment sections, so-called Internet trolls (who are frequently anonymous) have a polarizing effect on audiences, leading to politicization, rather than deeper understanding of scientific topics.

That’s bad, but it’s nothing compared with what a new psychology paper has to say about the personalities of trolls themselves. The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in 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).


12 thoughts on “Study: Internet Trolls are Horrible People – narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic

  1. In your article Facebook, Social Media, Trolls, and Codes of Conduct for Users you make the point that site moderators show a bias in tolerating obnoxious provoking comments but censor legitimate political arguments. Tolerance of trolling is hardly an accident. Those who wish to control the narrative with top-down authority are happy to see level playing field discourse disrupted. Do trolls ever evidence an anti-establishment position? It would be interesting if there was a study showing which areas trolls disrupt and which they leave alone. It might show they are working for the establishments interests whether directly or indirectly.


    • Oh, there are certainly pro-establishment trolls – no question about it. But, the site moderator bias I wrote about discriminated within the anti-establishment side. For example, a right-winger who might rabidly rail against the mere existence of the federal government or the expression of black grievances would be subjected to less site moderation than a left-winger who did the same against capitalism or white privilege.

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