Study: trolls are sadistic psychopaths


Accidental repost of Maggie’s, “The science of trolling”, on Feb 14, 2014.

“…a group of personality disorders known as…” suitable qualifications for a life in politics.


Naw, he’s Trollin’…



As a fan of the subtle political and psychological genius of “The Prince”, I don’t think I want to discover what trite nonesense the authors mean by “Machiavellianism”.

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Well, sure, but don’t we all exhibit signs of being sadistic psychopaths, on some levels?

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In the sense that we’re territorial animals with our own sense of needs and desires, then we do share that in common with psychopaths… but you might as well say “psychopaths and regular humans both need food to survive”. It’s a useless analogy.

Decades ago Robert Hare did an excellent job cataloging psychopathy as a spectrum of extremes. Everyone is “somewhat narcissistic” in that we have a great concern for ourselves (our well being, how we appear, how we act, etc), but a psychopath is “extremely narcissistic” in that they ONLY care about themselves, they DO NOT care about others, the characteristic becomes more black and white…like the sith!

The characteristics that manifest psychopathy are all very similar, they exist in the fringe extremes of what otherwise might be considered “typical behaviour” by psychologists. Charm, manipulation, lack of introspection, lack of empathy, lack of remorse, etc. Everyone has moments where they might act manipulative for one reason or another, possibly without thinking about it, however, we don’t consider the kind of behaviour that normal humans engage in “psychopathy lite”, it’s just part of the human experience. Psychopathy only exists in the far extreme ends of any of those spectrums, and only when it is the defining characteristic of the individual.

Even when people are pushed to extremes in desperation, we don’t consider their actions psychopathic, instead we have detailed psychological models that explain how we might act or react in extreme moments. They’re never confused or related with psychopathy on any level.

TL;DR - No, we don’t.


as a past victim of sociopaths IRL, I assure you that it is not at all trite, but you are completely correct that you really do not want to discover first hand what the authors mean.

I see what you did there.

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I was tempted to post some sort of trite reply to your reply, binarygirl, but no. You posted a well thought-out and well written reply to my comment. Thank you, it wasn’t too long for me. I agree with your statements regarding psychopathy existing in the far extreme ends of the defining characteristics, but I want to clarify my earlier (and admittedly trite) comment. In that some thoughts/fantasies we have, privately, are definitely psychopath-like. We don’t act on them. A slight step up would be ourselves behind the wheel in heavy rush-hour traffic (“cut me off will you? Swear to god, at the next light I am stepping out of my car and burning out your eyeball with my hot cigarette lighter.”) One more step up would be internet posting/trolling - the social distance between actually interacting with a person, and the grey area where you are observing said persons’ effect on your environment, is fertile ground to display some sadistic psychopath characteristics. So I guess what I’m saying is, wouldn’t recognizing the existence of this grey area pretty much invalidate the study?

In all honesty, even I didn’t quite see what I did there.

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It’s a study based on responses to an on-line survey. No evidence of actual psychopathic behaviour is involved. The only conclusion one can draw about personality traits is that people who claim to troll on the interwebs also like picking the obviously-bullshit responses in personality inventories (the Random Asshole issue of on-line data quality).

But what can you expect from a paper published in PID, a journal devoted to racism and evo-psych?

Ahh, I see what you did there ~_^


No, I agree with that, I couldn’t tell by what you wrote initially what direction you were indenting that to go, but I figured the concept of “how human behaviour is relative to psychopathy” probably needed it’s voice.

I’m kind of an hobbyist in this field of study, I’ve read all of Hare’s books, Lobaczewski, et al. There’s a lot to be said about “acting on impulse” as you described. Psychopaths typically have no ability to introspect whatsoever, so a psychopath with a lower IQ (read: petty criminal with no reform capacity) might think “I need money for drugs” and given any available opportunity, they might simply steal it from their roommate, employer, etc. The point here is that the thought process goes straight from Self Need --> Action.

If they’re clever, or better apt at modeling human behaviour, they’ll go through some process for getting what they want that helps ensure they’re not exposed, but ultimately, it never crosses their mind that “what they want” might not be in the best interest of someone else, they’ll only ever consider their own interests.

Yes, you’re right as it pertains to this study, because there’s no way to accurately gauge the person as a whole or any depth of the characteristics exhibited. The Hare psychopathy test can ONLY be given in very specific methods in controlled conditions with professionals, anything short of that should be discredited.

A quick note on trolling - I’ve been personally called a troll on countless forums over the years because I have the kind of personality that challenges ideas… but it seems that the last decade the concept of trolling seems to have gone from “instigating debate with no purpose (or for flamebait)” to “instigating debate (period)” because, hey, the whole thing is subjective anyway, right?!

Sigh… thanks obama : /

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In operational terms, “Machiavellianism” measures the sum of responses to a Machiavellianism check-list. Whether this is manifested in any way as real-world behaviour is irrelevant for the purposes of psychometric testing (where what matters is that the separate questions in a checklist are all well-correlated with one another, i.e. they are asking the same question in slightly different forms).

Sing it.

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