Brigham Young University study examines motivations and personalities of internet trolls

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SALT LAKE CITY — A study by Brigham Young University researchers examined the motivations and personality traits of internet “trolls,” or people who intentionally try to engage other people in antagonistic conversations and disruptive on social media platforms.

Researchers conducted a study of over 400 Reddit users and found that individuals are more likely to exhibit trolling behaviors when they also exhibit “dark triad personality traits”, including the narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy – combined with “schadenfreude”, which is a German word meaning to derive pleasure from the misfortune of others.

“People who exhibit these traits known as the dark triad are more likely to exhibit trolling behaviors if they derive pleasure from passively watching others suffer,” said relationship professor Dr. Pamela Brubaker. to BYU and co-author of the study in a press release. BYU.

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Researchers say online trolls often view their actions as rewarding and a means of dialogue. Often they don’t see the potentially hurtful impact of their words.

“They are more concerned with improving their own online experience than creating a positive online experience for people who don’t get the same kind of fun or enjoyment from such provocative discussions,” Brubaker said in a BYU statement. .

While it doesn’t look like trolling is going away any time soon, BYU researchers say there’s still hope for productive online conversations. They recommend starting online conversations with an open mind to understand different perspectives.

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The study found no correlation between being outspoken online and trolling behavior, suggesting that civil dialogue and discourse online is achievable.

BYU communications professor Dr. Scott Church and study co-author says remembering that the person you’re communicating with is a real person is also helpful for online etiquette.

“It helps when we think of others online as humans, people with families and friends like you and me, people who feel deeply and sometimes suffer. When we forget their identities as real people, seeing them instead like simple usernames or avatars, it becomes easier to engage in trolling,” Church said in a BYU statement.

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