Online trolls are sadists, psychopaths: research

Trolling on the Internet correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, new research found

By - February 14, 2014
Troll connoisseur harassment internet

A research report titled “Trolls just want to have fun” found that that there is a strong relationship between online trolls and sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.

Two online studies found that there is a strong positive association among “online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures”.

“Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism,” the report stated.

The study further found that of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behaviour.

“Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.”


sadism – the tendency to derive pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others

psychopathy – mental illness or disorder

Machiavellianism – any means (however unscrupulous) can be used by a ruler in order to create and maintain his autocratic government

More on Internet trolls

Twitter’s Internet troll battle

Twitter challenged to get tough against online abuse

Trolls or criminals? UK law battles

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