Study: Internet trolls are drunk with power

By on June 23, 2011, 6:07 PM

You've undoubtedly heard the old Lord Acton quote, "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Apparently, it doesn't really matter how that power is derived, and Internet trolls are drunk with it -- "it" being the power of anonymity. According to a study by the Northwestern University, anonymity affects the judgment of people similarly to alcohol intoxication and excessive power.

"Although these pathways appear to be unrelated on the surface, they all lead to disinhibited states through a common psychological and neurological mechanism," said Jacob Hirsh of the university's Kellogg School of Management. Dr. Hirsh's colleague, Professor Adam Galinsky, said the loss of inhibition causes "significant behavioral consequences" -- though, that's not necessarily good or bad in itself.

When a person is operating behind a mask such as the Internet, they're more likely to make decisions that align with their true motives or character -- be that heroism or hedonism. "This is why intoxicated individuals can be aggressive in one instant and altruistic in another," said Hirsh, and it could help explain why people tend to express such extreme views when they get behind a keyboard.

People often feel there are no repercussions for their actions online because they're not visually confronted with another person. Dr. Darryl Cross, a psychologist at Crossways Consulting, believes the anonymity of the Internet encourages split personalities. He noted that people have two personas: one driven by raw animal instinct, and another that's more conservative. The former kicks in online.

"What you've got [online] is people who are prepared to let their instinctual personality out rather than really taking a second perspective, looking at it in a different way, and then saying the second thing that comes into their mind instead of the first." Naturally, this occurs more frequently when you have an open system like ours that encourages "guest" posters, versus strictly registered commenters.

"Anything that requires personal responsibility has got to be a plus," Cross said. "Once they have to register and they're held accountable, then that's really going to be a major step forward." Worried that you're a troll? Cross suggests that you establish a method to determine the demeanor of your comment. For instance, consider what your grandparents might say about your post before submitting it.




User Comments: 65

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TomSEA TomSEA, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

They forgot one thing - they should have put the word "Guest" on the guy's shirt. ;-)

Adhmuz Adhmuz, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Agreed. That's why I logged in to post this. On the topic its not hard to find someone or recall a situation that involved being mocked or ridiculed for little to no reason. Sometimes for as little as question someones advice can result in a vicious bashing, this never ends well. Also there's times you just have to recognize the actions of a troll and drive them into insanity (or so you would hope) by egging them on repeatedly. Fighting a troll by being a troll, its the only way sometimes.

Muggs said:

I have always said that the warm snugly anonymity of the internet brings out the best in people. Good to see there are actually people studying this :-)

aj_the_kidd said:

Trolls can be funny at times, some of their comments can be good for a laugh

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Well, this is hardly "new business". The human psyche has been at the mercy of its machines for decades. The most salient example of this type of behaviour, is when people get behind the wheel of a car. A 100 lb woman is now the equal of a 250 pound man, and both are 20 times as big as they were before they slammed the SUV door. Latent aggression becomes salient and can escalate all the way to "road rage. It's like the car is now doing the thinking, and using its reptile brain to do it.

Theories like this have been around for decades, and this is a retread applied to internet behaviour.

What does impress me, is how people can still manage to obtain grant money to facilitate lounging around, puffing weed, and thinking they're onto something.

The way to deal with trolls is to remove their posts.(1*) That squelches their voice. End of influence, end of visibility, end of trolling. If the individual is too profoundly affected by this setback, another outlet could be found. My suggestion would be either masturbating or blowing one's brains out. A truly disturbed troll might try blowing his brains out while masturbating.

I actually do have a question about this, are "internet trolls" more likely to be male or female. Wait! I think I know this one, male! Send me a check.

(*1) You've been doing that for years, you savvy devils.

Guest said:

^^^^ Who do you think you are??? Trolls are people too.

amstech amstech, TechSpot Enthusiast, said:

A full on article about forum/internet trolls?

Guess it was going to happen sometime.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

^^^^ Who do you think you are??? Trolls are people too.
Thanks for stopping by to point out the patently obvious. Unless of course, this was posted by a typing chimpanzee.

Guest said:

it's like looking in a mirror

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

it's like looking in a mirror
And Narcissus shares his thoughts with us.

TeamworkGuy2 said:

Adhmuz said:

Agreed. That's why I logged in to post this. On the topic its not hard to find someone or recall a situation that involved being mocked or ridiculed for little to no reason. Sometimes for as little as question someones advice can result in a vicious bashing, this never ends well. [...]

+1/thumbs up/agree

Trolls have no sense of social anything, meaning that even trying to end an argument is impossible and Trolls will start an argument over absolutely nothing.

I enjoy the internet except on days I cross paths with Trolls.

supportme said:

Now what do u call a person who logs in to post extreme views instead of doing it anonymously.....

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Now what do u call a person who logs in to post extreme views instead of doing it anonymously.....
Oh goody, a quiz to go along with the study....

Guest said:

You call them an extremist... For they wish for everyone to see their name and join some sort of crazy internet clan to be extremists together.

stewi0001 stewi0001 said:

They forgot the mention that most of them are under the age of 16

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

You call them an extremist... For they wish for everyone to see their name and join some sort of crazy internet clan to be extremists together.
Now see, this post could have been much improved in impact and credibility by inserting the word, "verily". To wit, "For verily they wish that everyone would seest their name, and wouldst joinest together, to celebrate the coming rapture of the troll mothership.

That's a week from today. Be there or be square!

See, told ya. It's almost biblical, isn't it?

insect said:

supportme said:

Now what do u call a person who logs in to post extreme views instead of doing it anonymously.....

A B**ch. Forum ***** is acceptable also.

Guest said:

The most attitude i see here come from the people with accounts, not the guests.

Guest said:

Five posts already cranky? Damn.

aj_the_kidd said:

stewi0001 said:

They forgot the mention that most of them are under the age of 16

explains allot

aj_the_kidd said:

Guest said:

The most attitude i see here come from the people with accounts, not the guests.

When you constantly deal with trolls it becomes very annoying, as this is a forum about trolls we are simply expressing our discontent for them.

Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

TROLL NEEDZ FOOOOOOD!

Yes, it becomes annoying to reply to guests when you have no idea which is who =/ And well... haters will always hate cof cof wontsaynamebutyouknowwho cof cof (Normally comes out whenever A_D is mentioned).

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Post 6

Five posts already cranky? Damn.
If this was about Apple troll it would have been ten, I know. I'll try to do better.

BTW, is my posting frequency actually any of your business?

The most attitude i see here come from the people with accounts, not the guests.
You've apparently only been reading the guest comments you choose to. Besides, the real meaty "guest" comments usually get pulled down within minutes.

TROLL NEEDZ FOOOOOOD!

Yes, it becomes annoying to reply to guests when you have no idea which is who =/ And well... haters will always hate cof cof wontsaynamebutyouknowwho cof cof (Normally comes out whenever A_D is mentioned).

How many times am I going to have to tell you, nobody here speaks "Kibaruk" as a second language.

Guest said:

Come one captaincranky, this article resembles a little part of your heart. It shows in the frequency of your posts and interest in this particular article. ;) Come on, just say "IM A TROLL"!!!!! BUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Come one captaincranky, this article resembles a little part of your heart. It shows in the frequency of your posts and interest in this particular article. Come on, just say "IM A TROLL"!!!!! BUAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!
Let's just go with, "takes one to know one", shall we?

Guest said:

Remember what a troll resembles (Top of this page)? In all fairness, we all have a little troll in us.

http://media.photobucket.com/image/internet%20tough%20guy/sa
vyamigo/InternetToughGuy.gif?o=6

herpaderp said:

I loled at the "unused anus" label on the illustration.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

Remember what a troll resembles (Top of this page)? In all fairness, we all have a little troll in us.

[link]

The first sign of anything is denying it!.... "I'm not crazy"! (see how that axiom works)?

Guest said:

It doesnt work

Guest said:

The first sign of realizing a lack of knowledge means there is a lack knowledge. Stop embarrassing yourself ...

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

It doesnt work
Maybe not for you. It's very likely you're not doing it right. Try it again by answering this question, "do you masturbate"?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

The first sign of realizing a lack of knowledge means there is a lack knowledge. Stop embarrassing yourself ...
I know, " I've seen and heard the whole, "you don't know that you don't know nonsense". Did they take your money? Did they tell you that you'd be a better, more annoying troll when you were done the course?

KidChaos said:

I'm a little shocked this watered down article is generating this much response. Can we all go back to a good ol' CoDMF3 vs. BF3 fanboy frenzy? Forum trolls are not nearly as bothersome as patent trolls.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

I'm a little shocked this watered down article is generating this much response. Can we all go back to a good ol' CoDMF3 vs. BF3 fanboy frenzy? Forum trolls are not nearly as bothersome as patent trolls.
What is this, an attempt at internet censorship?

Besides, it isn't generating that much interest. The response to "looks" ratio is rather low (1*). Now rethink your position, not everyone wants to argue about one game versus another.

Or, you could start your very own argument in the "Gaming" forum: http://www.techspot.com/vb/menu11.html where everybody probably will.

(1*) But the night is still young.

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

KidChaos said:

I'm a little shocked this watered down article is generating this much response.

The Captain is channeling his inner Canadian and taking on all comers with a hockey stick in one hand, and a Molotov cocktail in the other.

The Guests are being represented by a narcissistic onanist chimpanzee.

When this is over there will be smoldering poo everywhere.

aj_the_kidd said:

onanist, thats a new one, let the poop fly

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

@gwailo

Wouldn't it be better and bit less messy if Captain make trolls shoot themselves with their own poo?

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

@gwailo

Wouldn't it be better and bit less messy if Captain make trolls shoot themselves with their own poo?

I plan on letting them get me into a crossfire situation, then ducking. Is that what you meant? But I digress.......

gwailo247, TechSpot Chancellor, said:

Archean said:

@gwailo

Wouldn't it be better and bit less messy if Captain make trolls shoot themselves with their own poo?

The only way to kill a troll is with fire. Otherwise they regenerate.

captaincranky captaincranky, TechSpot Addict, said:

The only way to kill a troll is with fire. Otherwise they regenerate.
Indeed. This is facilitated by the fact they only have 2 moving parts, a mouth and an a**h***. Since these are completely interchangeable, only one need grow back for the troll to be almost fully functional.

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I plan on letting them get me into a crossfire situation, then ducking. Is that what you meant? But I digress.......

Not really, I remember someone writing a letter to Top Gear few years ago, and threatening Jezza that they will 'poo in their own hand and then throw it at him' for destroying several Morris Marinas by dropping Pianos on them.

Presumably the letter was written by some member of "Morris Marina Owners Club".

Guest said:

In case anyone hadn't guessed already, AJ_the_kid, Captain Cranky, Gwailo247, Archean and Guest are all ME!

I take a bow :applause:

dividebyzero dividebyzero, trainee n00b, said:

The Guests are being represented by a narcissistic onanist chimpanzee.

Guests are outraged...and will be formulating rebuttals...as soon as they clean the keyboards

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I wonder if most of it will be gob (ref: DBZ's link), also they usually are saying arrrr I mean typing whatever happens to come to their fingers, which can be some random words with even more random spellings.

Guest said:

who u callin a troll?

Richy2k9 said:

hello ...

LOL :P

does that makes me a troll !!?

they are funny, sometimes pushes you to the limits, yet sometimes even registered users acts like worst that trolls

all my apologies if sometimes i do sound like ...

cheers!

Archean Archean, TechSpot Paladin, said:

One of my observations is 'people who can make fun of themselves aren't trolls'

Benny26 Benny26, TechSpot Paladin, said:

Sadly, I don't have the lack of intelligence to be a troll...or in fact the high intelligence to be a troll beater (keep up the good work Captain!).

I have to be content with the middle ground

PS: I wonder who will be the first to cut the face out of that photo and use it as an avatar?

Guest said:

Time to grow up!

The best answer is to silence to a troll, not out-wit him. Its a endless battle and usually bringouts the troll in yourself. Im starting to witness a non-techspot admin in this pointless fight to quite the guest.

Remember what your parents did when you cried for something irrelevant?

What are you names trying to accomplish? hopefully not the currently obvious.

Guest said:

"Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely"

But it also rules absolutely.

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