A new study by researchers at the University of Manitoba confirmed what most of us already knew: Internet trolls are actually horrible people in real life too.
The study, conducted by Erin Buckels, Paul Trapnellb and Delroy Paulhusc, found that chronic Internet trolls tended to have the “Dark Tetrad of personality”—like sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism—in real life as well.
The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.
In the study, trolls were identified in a variety of ways. One was by simply asking survey participants 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.” Here’s how different responses about these Internet commenting preferences matched up with responses to questions designed to identify Dark Tetrad traits.
Researchers conducted multiple surveys and studies to get their results, including polling college students. They also created and administered their own Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT), which included the following items:
I have sent people to shock websites for the lulz.
I like to troll people in forums or the comments section of websites.
I enjoy griefing other players in multiplayer games.
The more beautiful and pure a thing is, the more satisfying it is to corrupt.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that the correlation between sadism and trolling was the strongest because “both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others…Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”
Despite the results, only 5.6 percent of respondents admitted to trolling, while 41.3 percent said they were “non-commenters.” This means although trolls are very vocal, extremely annoying, and are harassers—they are only a small slice of all Internet users.