Slate magazine reports on a new psychology paper from researchers at the University of Manitoba, which sought to investigate whether people who engage in trolling were 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).
It is hard to underplay the results: 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.
Overall, the authors found that the relationship between sadism and trolling was the strongest, and that indeed, sadists appear to troll because they find it pleasurable. “Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others,” they wrote. “Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!”
(So remember: When Charles breaks out the ban hammer, he’s not doing it to stifle discussion or debate — he’s merely showing the door to people who really have no interest in being part of the community.)