Internet trolls show signs of sadism

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Internet trolls have the tendency to be sadists, psychopaths and followers of Machiavellianism, according to an online study conducted by psychologists from three Canadian universities: Winnipeg, Manitoba and British Columbia.

Machiavellianism is a philosophy that says that the end justifies the means, even if it means disregarding morality or exploiting others.

“It was sadism, however, that had the most robust associations with trolling of any of the personality measures. In fact, the associations between sadism and … scores were so strong that it might be said that online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists,” said the researchers.

Sadism is the tendency to derive satisfaction from the pain or emotional discomfort of other people. The study, which was recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, defined trolling as deceptive, disruptive or destructive behaviour on the internet with no apparent objective.

The study also noted that trolls post offensive comments because they enjoy how it angers other people, whereas cyberbullies say nasty things due to their limited comprehension or based on their beliefs regarding certain “hot button” issues.

Internet trolls exploit controversial topics to make certain individuals appear foolish or very emotional. If a person replies to their posts, trolling escalates further. Hence, internet neophytes are advised not to feed the trolls.

The research looked into the respondents’ internet behaviour, including the websites where they comment and the duration of their visits. They were also given personality tests that determined if they had a tendency toward sadism, narcissism, psychopathy or Machiavellianism.