Canadian researchers have confirmed what most peoplesuspected all along: that internet trolls are archetypal Machiavellian sadists.
In a survey conducted by the group of psychologists, peoplewho partake in so-called trolling online showed signs of sadism, psychopathy,and were Machiavellian in their manipulation of others and their disregard formorality.
The researchers defined online trolling as “the practice ofbehaving in a deceptive, destructive, or disruptive manner in a social settingon the Internet” for no purpose other than their pleasure.
To achieve the results, the team asked internet users aboutsubjects including how much time they spend online, and whether they comment onwebsites such as YouTube.
They were also given tests that measured their responsesagainst psychology's "Dark Tetrad": narcissism, Machiavellianism,psychopathy and a sadistic personality.
Questions also surrounded sadistic statements including: ''Ienjoy physically hurting people,” “I enjoy making jokes at the expense ofothers” and “I enjoy playing the villain in games and torturing othercharacters.”
“It was sadism, however, that had the most robustassociations with trolling of any of the personality measures,” saidpsychologists from the University of Manitoba, University of Winnipeg andUniversity of British Columbia in an article published in the ‘Personality andIndividual Differences’ journal.
It went on to claim that trolls are “agents of chaos” thatexploit “hot-button issues” to inflame and exploit users’ emotions,
"If an unfortunate person falls into their trap,trolling intensifies for further, merciless amusement. This is why noviceInternet users are routinely admonished, 'Do not feed the trolls!'," thestudy warned.
The team concluded that those who enjoyed trolling more thanother activities, such debating and making friends, had tendencies in line withthe psychological “Dark Tetrad”.
Perhaps most worryingly, the psychologists based theirconclusion on cyber-trolling being an “Internet manifestation of everydaysadism,” rather than merely on online phenomenon.
It is thought the findings may contribute towards a trend ofsites such as YouTube and the Huffington Post requiring users to comment usingregistered accounts rather than allowing anonymous posts.