Musician Ed Sheeran recently quit Twitter because Lady Gaga fans were just too mean to him (which is funny, because Ed Sheeran fans have been sending me death threats for years over a critical article I wrote about him). Now Quartz reports on a new study, slated to appear in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, that explains the specific psychology that makes internet trolls so darn nasty.
Researchers at Australia’s School of Health Science and Psychology at Federation University wanted to figure out what traits turn some people into online trolls. Through an online survey, they tested 415 men and women for a range of personality traits and a propensity for trolling behavior. In their study, “Constructing the Cybertroll: Psychopathy, Sadism, and Empathy,” they reveal that trolls scored higher than average on two psychological traits: psychopathy, or lack of caring about others’ feelings, and cognitive empathy, or the ability to understand others’ emotions. Basically, trolls understand your feelings enough to know what will really hurt, and then go for it because they are incapable of caring. Read more here.