Who Are Internet Trolls? Psychologists Build a Profile
Psychopathy and sadism play a prominent role among those who choose to take it up.
The dangers of becoming the target of an internet troll are worrying. Besides the uncomfortable aspects one might shake off, internet trolls spread spurious accusations, ruin reputations, and have even caused cases of suicide. It’s important to understand the phenomenon of trolling and those who perpetrate it, as some research suggests it may be more pervasive and cause longer lasting damage than traditional antisocial behaviors.
Surprisingly, little research has gone into the phenomenon. Trolling and cyber bullying are somewhat related. Trolls glorify in their own worldview. As such, they bait others of different bends on social media in order to mock and abuse them. They're motivated by a need for attention, by boredom, by a flash of excitement due to causing others pain, or by exacting revenge.
With trolling, the attack must captivate an audience, whereas with cyber bullying it may not be required. Without the shock and attention of others, trolls quickly get bored and move on to the next platform to begin baiting other unsuspecting victims.
One facet of social media that’s given space for trolls to thrive is the “online disinhibiton effect.” This is the idea that one can remain anonymous online and so not experience any of the negative social impacts that similar face-to-face encounters elicit. Though psychologists have done a good job at explaining the forces which gave birth to the troll, they don’t really know who these people are and what drives them.
Bullying on and offline is often perpetrated by those with similar personality traits. Getty Images.
Two Australian researchers, in a study recently published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, now give us fresh insight into this disturbing trend. These psychologists set out to describe the personality profile of your average, internet troll.
Natalie Sest and Evita March at Federation University in Australia conducted the study. They developed an online questionnaire out of a number of other psychological metrics. It quantified their personality traits and what kind of behaviors they displayed online. First, researchers looked at the Global Assessment of Internet Trolling (GAIT). This was originally a four question assessment. Sest and March added four more items, and now suggest that the original may not be sufficient.
Items included statements like, “Although some people think my posts/comments are offensive, I think they are funny.” Respondents answer somewhere along a five point scale, where 1 = Strongly Disagree and 5 = Strongly Agree. Sadism was measured through the Short Sadistic Impulse Scale. Qualifying statements included, “Payback needs to be quick and nasty” and “People would enjoy hurting others if they gave it a go.” Respondents answered using the same five-point scale.
Lastly, empathy was measured using the Empathy Quotient. This test includes a four-point scale, where 1 = Strongly Disagree and 4 = Strongly Agree. Items include, “I am good at predicting how someone will feel,” and “I get upset if I see people suffering on news programs.” It also evaluates social skills with items like, “I find it hard to know what to do in a social situation.”
Many trolls have poor social skills and act out as a form of revenge. Pexels.
415 participants took the assessment. 36% were men and 63% women. Their average age was 23. What they found was that men were far more likely to become trolls. They had higher levels of psychopathy and sadism, which is what ultimately predicted trolling. Trolls aren’t necessarily devoid of empathy. Instead, they have high levels of cognitive empathy, or understanding the emotions of others, but far less affective empathy, or internalizing those emotions, sort of feeling them for yourself.
Their psychopathic tendencies tended to outweigh total empathy. Trolls usually had poor social skills, too. Rather than act as an outlet for pent-up frustration, researchers found that trolling actually ended in negative psychological outcomes for the troll, even though they were the perpetrator.
Researchers wrote that, “Trolls employ an empathic strategy of predicting and recognizing the emotional suffering of their victims, while abstaining from the experience of these negative emotions. Thus, trolls appear to be master manipulators of both cyber-settings and their victims' emotions.”
Could an online reputation system curb trolling? To learn more, click here:
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Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"
- A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
- Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
- Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Beards and perceptions of masculinity<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg0MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzkxMjM3N30.cH-GqNwP5GVqvstgJWAhBPn1B_lYpVEAI0I7iax7EQw/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C1900%2C0%2C849&height=700" id="caae6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cb0a355a4e8e1899789bc45f3f7aef56" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Photo Credit: Wikimedia<p>The study used 919 American (mostly white) women ages 18-70 who rated 30 pictures of men they were shown with various stages of facial hair growth. The photographs depicted men with faces that had been digitally altered to look more feminine or more masculine, with a beard and without a beard. The women rated the men according to perceived attractiveness for long-term and short-term relationships. The study found that the more facial hair the men had, the higher the men were rated on their attractiveness, particularly for their suitability for a long-term relationship.</p><p>Part of this might be attributed to facial masculinity — i.e. protruding brow ridge, wide cheekbones, thick jawline, and deeply set narrow eyes — which conveys information to a woman about a man's underlying health and formidability. Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength and social assertiveness. It can also indicate a man with a superior immune response. The researchers suggested that their findings favoring bearded men could be due to the fact that facial hair enhances the masculine facial features on a man's face, like creating the illusion of a thicker jaw line. This could communicate direct benefits to women like resources and protection that would enhance survival among mothers and their infants. In other words, while a beard doesn't mean superior genetics in and of itself, it might be a primitive, ornamental way of saying, "Hey girl, I'm a testosterone-fueled lean, mean, pathogen fighting machine." <br></p><p>It could also be that a beard becomes its own destiny. The researchers in this study cite prior research that found that by growing a beard, men felt more masculine and had higher levels of serum testosterone, which was linked to a higher level of social dominance. They also tended to subscribe to more old-school beliefs about gender roles in their relationships with women as compared to men with clean-shaven faces.<span></span><br></p>
What does disgust have to do with beard preference?<p>Obviously, not all women dig beards. The researchers were particularly interested in what traits make a women prefer bearded men over clean-shaven faces. They looked into several factors including a woman's disgust levels on various concepts, her desire to become pregnant, and her exposure to facial hair in her personal life. </p><p>According to the study, women who were not into facial hair were turned-off by potential parasites or other critters they imagined could be in the hair or skin. Women ranking high on this "ectoparasite disgust" scale might have viewed beards as a sign of poor grooming habits. However, women who ranked higher in levels of "pathogen" did find the bearded men to be desirable, possibly because they perceived beards as a signal of good health and immune function. An intriguing discovery in the study was links to morality. Women who displayed higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, were more likely to prefer hairy faces. The authors opined that this could reflect a link between beardedness, politically conservative outlooks, and traditional views regarding performances of masculinity in heterosexual relationships.</p>
Additional findings<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjU5OTg1My9vcmlnaW4uZ2lmIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDI1NjUyOX0.P9B8WbmJR0q4nfzYZKbuNSA-2SAigVWJgrQE-_Gxlds/img.gif?width=980" id="49143" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2ed3b1d6f20fc170bf2974646e565e8d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Giphy<p>The correlations that existed between married and single women's rating on the attractiveness of beards were not particularly clear, although the researchers noted that single and married women who wanted children tended to find beards more attractive than the women who didn't want children. They also found that women with bearded husbands found beards to be more attractive, which might indicate that social exposure to beards influences how desirable they are perceived of as being. Or it could be that men with wives who like beards grow beards.</p><p>It's important to note that culture plays a huge role in how attractive women perceive certain male characteristics as being. This study looked at a small, culturally specific group of American women, so no big, universal claims should be made about masculinity, facial hair, and male desirability to women. However, research like this is important in highlighting how human grooming decisions are driven by much more than fashion trends. Sociobiological, economic, and ecological factors all play a part in the way we choose to present ourselves.</p>
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