New psychological research into internet trolls has uncovered some interesting things about their personalities.
The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether trolls suffer from a Dark Tetrad of Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy and sadism.
The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling.
There was also a relationship between most of the Dark Tetrad traits and the overall time that an individual spent commenting on the internet.
Survey participants were asked what they “enjoyed doing most” when on online comment sites, offering five options: “debating issues that are important to you,” “chatting with others,” “making new friends,” “trolling others,” and “other”.
Only 5.6 percent of survey respondents actually specified that they enjoyed “trolling”. By contrast, 41.3 percent of Internet users were “non-commenters,” and did not like engaging online at all.
Trolls are a minority of online commenters, and an even smaller minority of overall internet users.
Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest.
“Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others… Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”
The study said that censorship of trolls does not stop them. The allure of trolling may be too strong for sadists, who presumably have limited opportunities to express their sadistic interests in a socially desirable manner, such as being a press officer for a political party or a reality TV show scriptwriter.