Why 'Trolling' Exist? Here's What Science Answers

Trolls are a typical phenomenon of the internet and are made up of people who do not usually have friendly positions in online discussions, whether on Facebook, Twitter or comment boxes on large portals. But why do they exist? Are there specific psychological traits that favor the emergence of trolls? A survey conducted by Australian psychologists indicates that yes.


Through an online questionnaire, researchers from the College of Health Sciences and Psychology, Federal University of Mount Helen, Australia, evaluated 415 men and women over the age of 18 (mean age 23 years). Participants had to agree or disagree with statements such as "Although some people find my posts/comments offensive, I find them amusing" to identify specific traits in their personalities.

The research was specific for psychological conditions such as psychopathy, sadism, affective empathy and cognitive empathy. In the end, it was possible to perceive that trolls rely especially on two of these traits: psychopathy and cognitive empathy. The difference between the two forms of empathy is simple: while the cognitive allows one to identify the feelings and emotions of others, the affective causes the emotions of others to cause commotion.

Psychopathy and bugs of sadism

Thus, people with a high capacity for cognitive empathy know exactly what kind of reactions their negative or angry comments will cause. Combining this with psychopathy - which is basically the little appreciation for the emotions and feelings of other people - is a full plate for the formation of trolls.

"The results indicate that when there is a high level of psychopathy, trolls employ an empathic strategy of predicting and recognizing the emotional distress of their victims while refraining from experiencing such negative sensations," write the researchers.

The study also found that trolls often have a high dose of sadism in their psychological profile - that is, they are amused by the suffering of their victims. Another trait found by the research is that trolls tend to be male, although most of the survey participants (63%) are female.
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