The science of trolling

Isn’t that Bob Altemeyer’s university? They might know a thing or two about people who suck moose.


Trolling must be a mind hack because even though I knew exactly what you were doing here, it pissed me off very much.

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Just because a site requires a real name, doesn’t mean you get a real name.
But yeah, There’s probably going to be people who don’t care either way.

I know what you mean. Even though my intent was obvious, right before I pushed the “Reply” button, a part of me wondered if everyone would collectively lose their sense of humor and I’d be banned for reals.


On the upside, perhaps the finding that only 5.6% of respondents are indicated to be maliciously trolling will discourage people from lazily flinging the accusation about, at the first inkling of disagreement?

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I guess it’s nice that they managed to quantify this a bit, everyone loves pretty graphs after all, but I don’t see any exciting new insights here. Assholes enjoy being assholes online. No shit.

I think this (older) paper does a far better job of digging into the psychology behind trolling specifically, without resorting to just labeling trolls with a few broad negative personality traits and calling it a day.

Well, I didn’t find it especially funny, but I decided to adhere to “don’t feed the trolley”. Self-aware, parodic, or otherwise.

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Its spelled “your”



I think there is a serious problem with people not understanding what trolling really is.

I’ve described trolling as fuzzing another human beings brain. What that means for the lay human being, is this. In technology, we have an idea of black box testing. We see a box, it’s black, we cannot see inside. Coming out of that box is let’s say hypothetically an interface consisting of 3 buttons. On the other side of the box are 3 lights. One way to discern the nature of that black box and what lies within is to press those buttons and look to see what happens to the lights. In this way we refer to systematically ( as in there is a logical system ) testing an interface looking for data we can use to reverse engineer the logical operations of an unknown mechanism as … fuzzing.

So for instance…

I see a guy named kayvee on imgur. He’s an angry sort. I am curious why is he so broken? So I start by passively monitoring kayvee the user on imgur. I hit the API, pull all his comments, and begin to statistically analyze his commentary to figure out more about kayvee. Oh, kayvee is a linguistics professor… he’s a guy… lives in california… etc etc. Now I want to establish some boundaries… so I prod kayvee from several accounts. I want to find out what lights up his rage on the internet. Can I make him angry in a predictable fashion. If I can, I mark that data. Now can I correlate that anger with something I know about him? Can I come up with a hypothesis for how and why kayvee’s anger works the way it does? How can I test that. Controlled experiment. I now hit kayvee with a series of posts specifically designed to expose kayvee’s hotbutton issues. I can confirm that kayvee loves animals and any attack upon them is going to make him batshit crazy mad. Or something.

Trolling can be amateurish shits and giggles, or it can be downright absurdly complex engineering designed to tear a human being apart and lay their inner workings out for prodding and experimentation.

Of couse, a pyschologist would HATE a troll. We’re basically pure evil from their stand point. Their concept of ethical interactions with human beings would disallow 90% of what a troll considers a regular tool of the trade. And a psychologist has a goal. They are looking to help someone. To aid in ending an illness. Trolls, aren’t. Trolls are doing what’s known as blue sky engineering… with people. Live targets, who are not volunteers, and largely are not aware of their being used as guinea pigs.

So that hopefully is enlightening to you as what a troll really is.

Anyways, I gave a talk at defcon 19 on this topic that was fun.



I’m sorry.


Just to be clear, Personality traits are not absolute so they’re not always necessarily negative, A bit of narcissism is healthy, too much is not.

What they correlated here were higher degrees of certain personality traits (Not necessarily pathological degrees) in “trolls” vs lower degrees of these same personality traits in non-trolls.


You know who else didn’t find things funny? Hitler


You so def nailed it’s problem, right there.


I can’t help wondering if the researchers got trolled. Maybe the sort of person who would claim to enjoy trolling would also enjoy choosing the worst possible sounding answers to the psychological questions, not because they really feel that way, but because they believed it would give the researchers the wiggins.


Those aren’t what I’d consider trolls. They’re just ill mannered or obsessive posters. To me, a troll is a disinterested party who intentionally provokes a response by pressing psychological buttons. For example:

Going to an environmental site to talk about the windmill on your homestead, and gaining the admiration of other posters before announcing that you use the electricity to stun wildlife for food and sport.

Going to a religious website to tell your conversion story, and waiting until you are accepted by the group before adding new facts that God has revealed to you personally in addition to the teachings of the Bible.

Going to a conservative website and announcing that Obama isn’t as liberal as you wanted, but at least he’s not white.



Those are all too obvious IMHO. The most successful trolls I see are the ones where people will defend them going “this is what he really believes!”

After that, it’s just pressing on hot button issues over and over again. They can be counted on to show up anytime global warming, evolution, abortion, gerrymandering, or union organization are brought up.

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You mean Machiavellian enough to want to manipulate other people, sadistic enough to practice making them angry rather than say happy, psychopathic enough not to care if it’s cruel, and Narcissistic enough to imagine this means they’re being some sort of clever scientist rather than ordinary ass?

I guess, but I got the same from the article. :trollface:


I only toss it around after the second inkling of willful fallacy

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is any form of dissent labelled trolling? what a homogenized and narrow minded reality that will create.
I mean, I’ve been shut down on this site a couple of times for having a different opinion and saying it.
I wasn’t doing it to specifically piss you off, ‘for the fun of it’, I was stating my opinion and it differed from yours.
your site is perceived as being in the forefront of ideas, and all those ‘whimsical’ and ‘funny’ comments that fill the pages are often just the thoughts of readers who take the time to agree. but if one takes the time to disagree, in the name of keeping you all from believing too much in yourselves, one is ‘flagged’ as a troll ?
the Ministry of Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong will be reading these pages one day…
cue snarky comments: