Science Proves That Trolls Ruin Everything

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Zachary Amaranth:

Remember when trolls were actually funny

I'm not sure such a time existed.

Then you missed some of the greatest.

The "original" troll was an individual who would make stupid/arrogant people make fools of themselves for everyone else's enjoyment. The problem was, like many things the general public tries to emulate, it got out of hand and too many people wanted to become "trolls". Now the meaning is lost in a haze of rage and stupidity where an ignorant comment can be brushed off as "lol i wuz just trolling u".

Wow, I hate to say it, but the only one who isn't making my bile raise in this thread is the self professed troll Kouriichi. I demand a second study to see how pointless bickering about a secondary slightly related topic effects the overall impact of an internet article.

Correction, the discussion started back towards a rational one as I was posting this, so there are some exceptions to that rule now.

so not only is trolling a art, but it is now a science as well?

when can we start getting out Phd's in trollology?

I agree with the methods, but the conclusions they drew are just flat out wrong; or at least the conclusions the media picked up and ran with. I don't disagree with the idea of hostile comments having a negative effect, but to automatically equate that to trolls is just flat out wrong. The idea that trolls are the only ones who leave nasty comments or the only thing trolls do is leave nasty comments is just an insane notion that is just wrong. I really think this has more to do with researchers trying to seek attention than actually producing something of value.


Actually I think the real point of this article can be summed up with the wise saying "Arguing on the internet is like competing in the Special Olympics: even if you win, you're still retarded." It is for the exact reason that you brought up: 9 times out of 10 no matter how well thought out, stated, and expressed your opinion might be, the chances of actually changing someone else's opinion is nearly impossible. What's the moral of the story? What we all already knew: just ignore the jackass saying things clearly just to piss you off.

The Plunk:

RJ 17:

Forget doing more research into cancer remedies or other diseases. No, lets focus our efforts on finding out the psychological effects of internet trolling. I saw another study the other day that declared "Male Jurors Are More Likely To Think That Fat Female Defendants Are Guilty." Personally I'd like to see a study on just how useful trivial scientific studies - like the effects of internet trolls causing people to become angry and irrational - are for the general public. That or more specifically a study on how many people think such studies are a waste of time and money.

It is not a sociologist's job to find the cure for cancer. Just as it is not a psychologist's job to perform heart surgery.

True, but is it their job to research the obvious? If so, I picked the wrong major. I'd love to get paid for researching common-sense things. :P

For an apples-to-apples comparison, wouldn't it be better (for society) if the money spent on this study had instead been spent on research into various mental illnesses so as to help develope ways to prevent tragedies like the Sandy Hook Shooting?

You know, I love science. I think it's wonderful and has made life so much better for our species as a whole.


There are times when I really wish we didn't have to put so much time and effort into studying and analyzing the painfully obvious, just so we can convince idiots that it is, in fact, true.

Well. That's kinda the thing about science. It's not enough to know that gravity exists. What matters is knowing WHY and HOW it exists.

The WHY and the HOW allows us to use that knowledge for other things in the future.


Who are you to judge my way of life?! You find me pathetic even though you dont even know me?

Thats what truly holds the world back these days. Treating others poorly based on their life choices! Discrimination has never led to anything good in our world. Maybe if you and all the parents who think "Violent video games are evil", opened your eyes to the truth that its not the troll, or the game that's the problem, its poor parenting and bigotry that are!

But i will forgive your quick judgement on my nature, and extend an olive branch of friendship. Not because im the bigger man, but because its the right thing to do.

Oh-ho-ho-ho. I've got my eye on you, mister! You shan't affect me in any meaningful way, no sir! But, the thing is, "professional troll", "devil's advocate", I don't know...those things are quite difficult to pull off since they obviously need to have the proper motivation, and often people misinterpret them as "antagonizing people for the sake of antagonizing them".

It only gets worse when discussing [b]serious issues [b] like climate change or Mass Effect 3

I see what you did there!

I love how this thread is mildly hostile. "Love" is a word that, in this case, means "am saddened by".

As per usual, tact is the correct (and rarest) approach.

Ninjas. Damn.

Not that I'm surprised. This is a melting pot for almost everything the Escapist hates; Trolls, comments about polarizing topics, and "wasted" science money (like there's only a small number of scientists in the world, and this took away from things that "matter more"). Hell, throw in gun control and feminism/homosexual rights, and it's a perfect storm.

Anyway, yeah, that's why I tend to avoid commenting on topics that have inflammatory comments already. I don't need to get riled up, that happens enough when I'm offline.

It's nice to see the science of social cues get further research. These studies are important if you want to find out why people do the things they do. Ariely spoke about his very concept when it came to financially toxic decisions that lead up to the the 2007 recession. When a peer makes a bad decision and is not punished, in some cases is rewarded, then others take that cue to do similar or the same things. On comment threads it's the same situation. A few people make a comment that is just trolling (aka. you mad bro?) and it blows up. By the above logic, trolls should be banned on forums or punished in some way. They do it here on the escapist and you can even see they were punished, how long for, and for comments on what thread. It's an awesome thing they do.

Now if science could determine a way to teach people what trolling is, that is a real trick. You see, by disagreeing or having a different idea than other people, you are not trolling. People will say your trolling. I once used an analogy in one of my debates and the person responded with something like, "what kind of troll logic is that", when I was in fact not trolling.

I don't completely agree with the Theory of Motivated Reasoning. It's honestly just far too simple to explain complex human interactions. I also feel that if you were to make a list of what motivates the things people say to each other in a social situation, it would have to be much larger and rationality would have to be way down the list. If there is one thing most complex psychological version of various sciences (economics, sociology) have pointed out since Kahneman and Tverski's works that started in the 1960's, people are not rational. That is a strange sentence, but people are not rational creatures. We are capable of rationality. We are also capable of persistence hunting. Neither of which is done by everyone. Though it has a happy far step from on of the other theories that floats around, that would the cost benefit model. That one is completely off base in regards to what motivates people to do anything.

"To scientists, this behavior bears a strong resemblance to the theory of motivated reasoning, which states that humans are emotional first and rational second....It only gets worse when discussing serious issues like climate change or Mass Effect 3, where opinions are so vitriolic that almost no one is capable of having a fully rational conversation in the first place."

Well if that "game" was more rationally designed, had a more stable story, instead of colossal inconsistent mess of emotional, shock value driven crap, maybe the response to the ending would have been more rational?

No, really? How do you think the church managed to pass witch hunts off as an acceptable thing for so long. Once the first person starts crying witch then it's only natural that other idiots will follow suit. Humans are essentially just big monkeys, when we see someone starting to fling shit, we quite happily join the festivities. Monkey see, monkey do.

Yes, I'm aware people are actually apes. But I still mean it when I call them monkeys.

I am not a monkey. We may have a common ancestry, but any human has the capability to NOT behave like an animal.

Nice job, science. Now the trolls KNOW it's working. :\

Science apparently needs to prove everything, including that people respond to hostility with hostility.

There was a good point brought up earlier in the thread, though, and that's 'what definition of trolling is being used?' The current standard seems to be deliberately inflammatory and hostile comments simply to make people angry, however, that would seem to fall under flaming, plus it requires one to know the intent of the poster.

Also, since a lot of people objected to this: yes, there are legitimately clever and intelligent trolls out there, they just get drowned out in all the 'lol i liek Hitlerz i trollz u' nonsense.

Okay since we've noticed how they waste or don't waste money on studies like this, how about we put that issue to rest and ask the scientists to make a new study now that they have a foothold on the troll issue - how to solve it?

Trolling is an art.

A lot of what's out there is simply people being ill-mannered and contrary.

There are times when I really wish we didn't have to put so much time and effort into studying and analyzing the painfully obvious, just so we can convince idiots that it is, in fact, true.

Can we please get some kind of referendum that asks what scientists think we want to know about instead of wasting money on "Studies" that we all just kinda go "Uh, Doy!" after we read about?

Actually that study was incredibly insightful and valuable. It provided evidence for a phenomenon that was not well-documented, at least not in the public eye. Sure, we all know that trolling a thread can derail the discussion, or that insulting someone directly can make them refuse to listen to you. But I have never seen anyone propose that merely observing someone else being insulted could inhibit their own rational judgement. And I've certainly never heard anyone propose that seeing someone troll could reinforce your beliefs even if you are on the same side of an argument as the troll.

And besides, even if the implications of the study were fairly common sense, it introduced me to the theory of motivated reasoning, a theory I would be very unlikely to come across in my direct field of study but which has profound implications for my future research goals. So, yay for that.

As far as the time and money spent on this research goes, firstly I doubt much was spent. This experiment would have required a blog and comment section, which can be produced for free. The center might have paid a token amount of money for participants, but given how little effort was required for participation I doubt it was necessary. Their biggest expense would have been paying for the labor of the researchers. A healthy chunk of that labor could have been performed by graduate students who were invited to assist in order to learn the process of research and academic publishing. So there could have been very little expense to the experiment, and it could lead people to doing better research in the future. Gold star all around, I say.

"There is a single light of science. To brighten it anywhere is to brighten it everywhere." -Isaac Asimov

You know, I love science. I think it's wonderful and has made life so much better for our species as a whole.


There are times when I really wish we didn't have to put so much time and effort into studying and analyzing the painfully obvious, just so we can convince idiots that it is, in fact, true.

It was very possible that trolls do not lower the quality of a conversation, and that people are capable of ignoring troll comments. It is also possible that people would not change there beliefs at all, just have disgust for the troll. Perhaps trolls aggression could have encouraged other people to troll as well, and the peer pressure causes people to agree with the trolls opinion because people are less likely to see something as trolling when they agree. Or perhaps trolling will cause people to tend to disagree with the troll out of antipathy. All these things are reasonable hypothesis that were rejected by the study. All of these conflicting outcomes could have been accused of being, "Obvious" by onlookers.

Even if you think that this outcome is the only obvious outcome, that would be the kind of conventional wisdom that science disproves on a daily basis. But you can't disprove conventional wisdom without first being willing to test something that most people consider obvious. Naturally, in unseating deeply held and deeply flawed beliefs that everyone assumes is true, you're often going to just support the obvious. That doesn't mean that putting it to the test and getting quantifiable measurements is not valid.


Feeling emotion is an effortful action, to do so occupies a portion of your working memory. This means you have less available "processing power" to sort through the information in the article, and so pay less attention/assign less meaning to it. This causes you to disregard any new information, which is why original beliefs are affirmed.

While I understand that its important to prop theories up with supporting evidence, there comes a point when there is already enough evidence (see practically all of Dan Kahnemans career) and scientists should spend their time researching something else.

I hate to quote and say this, but you are completely wrong on your first paragraph. The comments came after the article, which means that the information in the article was already processed. Also, 'working memory' doesn't have a set limit.

Also, working memory and emotion are two different areas. Emotion happens on the subconscious level and influences our working memory, not takes up the capacity.

Also, another point, Psychology doesn't do what you propose -exactly- for that reason. Even if you were to be right about your idea, I would have -no- reason to believe you without the research.

'Common Sense' holds no place in research. Everything starts with a foundation, and builds off of that.

EDIT: Also, for people outside of internet culture, the research would allow them to understand the situation. They may not know what a 'troll' does, because articles are more than just research.

I see your quotation, and raise you one degree in psychology and 4 years working in a related field. Working memory does have a set limit, evidenced by the fact that people essentially become blind when focussing on difficult math tasks. It takes time to process information, which is why comments made after reading the article affected participant response to it.

Yes, emotion is not the same thing as working memory, but it does take capacity from it, even subconscious activity does so.

Point number three - the research is out there, but I am not sufficiently interested in whether or not you accept my position to link to it. The only reason I am replying to your comment is because it annoys me when people who evidently have no real schooling in a subject area put their opinions forwards as "the truth", and dismiss the opinions (which I do understand are just opinions, but still), of professionals in that area.

The main thing I took away from this article is that Science could be observing us right now... ¬_¬

The main thing I took away from this article is that Science could be observing us right now... ¬_¬

Change could to is and you have it.

You know, I love science. I think it's wonderful and has made life so much better for our species as a whole.


There are times when I really wish we didn't have to put so much time and effort into studying and analyzing the painfully obvious, just so we can convince idiots that it is, in fact, true.

There are alot of things we took as fact cause they were painfully obvious, only to discover we were wrong. This research is not as obvious as you think. What they are effectively saying is that anyone can put a reasonable argument up, have someone else stir up shit and the result will be a higher chance of everyone siding with their argument on the grounds of irrational response to the shit stirred. This is extremely important information about the human mind and can be used to calm major situation of rage, potential suicidals and high stress environments. It can also be used to better understand and counter coercive situations and reinforce the law with regards to unfair deals made under manipulative environments. It can also be used to better organize a military unit and in general circles get a more honest response from people in any situation.

So it seems minor and obvious, but the potential for it to expand out from the obvious rage against the something that is upsetting is an unexpected and important finding.

And of course there is the negative that govs and advertizes can now use the info to further encourage us to buy their bullshit and products. So be mindful.

No, really? How do you think the church managed to pass witch hunts off as an acceptable thing for so long. Once the first person starts crying witch then it's only natural that other idiots will follow suit. Humans are essentially just big monkeys, when we see someone starting to fling shit, we quite happily join the festivities. Monkey see, monkey do.

Yes, I'm aware people are actually apes. But I still mean it when I call them monkeys.

Somewhat unrelated, but I wanted to point out that when people refer to "The Church", they are generally referring to one of the main Christian churches, usually the Roman Catholic church. Which specifically condemned witch hunts.

I don't disagree that there was a sheep mentality at play, but it wasn't a church conspiracy.

OT:It's not just internet trolls, but anything that makes you angry. It's why, in business, the old ways of "asshole boss belittling those below him" have completely disappeared from the bigger, more successful companies. Happy people are productive and inventive people.

Trolling is an art.

I agree. It's the Dada of the Internet.

I feel like Congress suddenly takes on on a whole new light...

It's funny because most troll comments I see lately are simply looking to get a reaction out of as many people as possible.

I guess they just won.

"Human Beings are emotional first and rational second". It's not every day a scientist admits that.

Do we really needed an scitentify experiment to explain that? I thought everyone who encounter troll already know that?

You know, while I'm not surprised by the basic result of their study, that certain things bypass the part of our brains that keep us rational and calm, I am surprised about the mention of Mass Effect 3.

And not the fact that those 1,183 participants, were all of Legions runtimes.

I can't help but find that rather funny, especially since he apparently came up with a consensus when it comes to trolls.

I 'train my self' against 'trolls'.

I hang out on the Vindictus forums some times, no mods there so they're all over the place

I'd be curious to see the effects of draconian moderation on this process. When you see someone saying something inflammatory and ignorant and you come up with that witty, biting come-back but you can't let it loose, thus offering yourself some cathartic relief and returning yourself to a more rational state, because you know you, as a relatively responsible human-being, will likely be punished for your statement as it is directed while the troll itself will often receive no penalty for their behavior because it is non-directed.

Of course, moderation is incredibly inconsistent and often at the whims of the moderators personal bias.

I'm not sure that I buy into this for two reasons.

1) When I troll, I usually do it for a higher purpose than just saying "U mad, bro?" Trolling, even if it is using reducto ad absurdum responses, can be used to illustrate counterpoints. Even medieval kings recognized the value of having a troll around in the form of the Court Fool.

2) My problem with the study is that it claims that it is that easy to bypass the rational part of our brain. Given the current debate over whether our culture, including video games, shapes us into more aggressive people (if not out-and-out violent people), I would be hesitant to praise this one study as concrete evidence. If trolling on an internet forum can bypass our rational side so easily, how much more so does playing a violent video game whose sole intent is to bypass the rational part of our brain? Worse, how much more stress would losing at an online game such as COD whose population are largely trolls add to the stress that real life already puts on our irrational side? Over time, the long-term exposure could easily make a normal person a completely irrational person. If you add a pre-existing mental condition to the mix, the effects could be much worse.

If we accept this study at face value, then the implications of this study would indicate that we really should take a closer look at our "violence culture", games included. I'm not sure I'm ready to accept such a claim at face value.

Don't forget that some "obvious" things aren't really the way we all think. Take William James's Bear, for example, or the Rorschach butterfly. You gotta test things to be sure, even if you THINK it's a no-brainer.

I find it odd that there's no link to what the study defined a "troll" to be.

It is odd because many people disagree on exactly what a troll is. To some people it's someone who plays devil's advocate, to others it is someone who enters a thread saying something with the intent of riling others up, and sometimes it's just someone who disagrees with you.

I thought the term for someone who just spouts obscenities or negative opinion over something was a "flamer", not a "troll".

I'd say flamers are a subset of trolls. The accepted definition for troll, at least to my knowledge, is someone who posts diliberatly offensive things in order to upset and anger others. Mabey we should divide them elementally. You know, flame trolls are super angry obscenity spewing balls of rage, rock trolls are delibratly stupid and illogical, ice trolls can be... something else ect.

Oh come the fuck on!

We all know THAT! We didn't need science to confirm it!

Don't worry, I have my jar of Turkish miak; I'm good to go.

Not Turkish Miak! You need Bulgarian Miak! You crazy son of a-- You'll kill us All!!

OT: Yeah, I believe that.

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