Science Proves That Trolls Ruin Everything

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Science Proves That Trolls Ruin Everything

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A recent study suggests that trolls prevent us all from behaving like rational human beings.

Troll encounters are simply a fact of life when it comes to the internet. Just browse around any forum or comment thread, and odds are you'll find someone making life very difficult for decent, hard-working internet users. We all know how frustrating and annoying trolls can be, but a recent scientific study suggests that they could be much worse than we originally thought. You know that feeling you get when you really want to put a troll in their place with a cutting yet witty retort? That means their comments just bypassed the part of your brain responsible for calm, rational thought. Once that happens, you're not only getting angry in the short term, you're also becoming a slightly less rational person altogether.

For the study, 1,183 participants were asked to read a blog post discussing the risks and benefits of nanotechnology. While the post itself was identical for each participant, the comment threads below varied from polite and reasoned to rude and inflammatory. When the scientists asked afterwards what their subjects thought about nanotechnology, they discovered that trolling comments had a polarizing effect. Everyone who read a rude or derogatory comment quickly became more secure in their original beliefs, dismissing the more balanced ideas laid out in the original post. Most interestingly, the troll's stated opinion had no effect on the reader's reactions; it was the hostility itself that made everyone less rational.

To scientists, this behavior bears a strong resemblance to the theory of motivated reasoning, which states that humans are emotional first and rational second. This means that if you're presented with a balanced and well-reasoned idea, you'll probably ignore the details if someone is hurling out inflammatory comments nearby. 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.

So is there anything that can be done, short of never reading comment threads ever again? Here's my suggestion: before posting in any thread, inoculate yourself from hostility using cute animal pictures and videos reminding you not to be a dick. Also, as always, not feeding the trolls would be a very good idea.

Source: io9
Image: Ernest Scared Stupid

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Interesting that they needed a study to find out that trolls ruin chances of people having a rational debate or good conversation.

Remember when trolls were actually funny and didn't spam hurtful things and act like dicks?
Oh wait, those aren't trolls, they're losers.

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

However.

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?

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.

VanQQisH:
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.

You could have just said "Most humans are shit flinging fuckwits." and it would have worked just as well.

ITT: Mass Effect 3's ending blew donkey dongs. That is all.

(Wait? Is trolling in a thread about trolling considered satire, or expected behavior? /mindblown)

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 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.

CpT_x_Killsteal:
Remember when trolls were actually funny and didn't spam hurtful things and act like dicks?

No, but I've only been on the internet since 1990. When was this, again?

Wolle:

CpT_x_Killsteal:
Remember when trolls were actually funny and didn't spam hurtful things and act like dicks?

No, but I've only been on the internet since 1990. When was this, again?

Wouldnt really be able to give you a time frame because it happened at different times on different sites. But when I first discovered/heard of "trolling" it was funny and even the people getting trolled always laughed. Now everyone thinks trolling is cool and act like a bunch of wannabe losers. So that's why I consider 99.99% of today's trolls pathetic losers.

Real trolling is when even the guy getting trolled laughs/doesn't mind.

Professional Troll here, and i just want to say, you shouldnt lump us all in together. A lot of us classier trolls would never spam, "U MAD?", or aim for someones worst quality in a direct way. Some of us are so subtle you wont even notice it. Youve all had that moment where you have to ask yourself, "Did i just get trolled?", thats what a lot of us shoot for.

Idiots and Arses ruin everything. Trolls? Real trolls? Trolls that know blunt cursing and spamming the same thing isnt sportsmanlike? We highlight the problems.

kouriichi:
Professional Troll here, and i just want to say, you shouldnt lump us all in together. A lot of us classier trolls would never spam, "U MAD?", or aim for someones worst quality in a direct way. Some of us are so subtle you wont even notice it. Youve all had that moment where you have to ask yourself, "Did i just get trolled?", thats what a lot of us shoot for.

still rather pathetic....

ANY form of trolling

Salomega:
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?

How much money do you think was wasted? These studies are usually surveys, and if any money goes into them at all, it's to compensate those surveyed for the hour or so of their time. These subjects are usually students, who could use the money.

How is this a bad thing?

Besides, anyone can state the obvious, like that the sun goes round the earth, but it's not science until it is actually investigated, and every once in a while during the course of those investigations we find that what we thought was obvious was not true.

Vault101:

kouriichi:
Professional Troll here, and i just want to say, you shouldnt lump us all in together. A lot of us classier trolls would never spam, "U MAD?", or aim for someones worst quality in a direct way. Some of us are so subtle you wont even notice it. Youve all had that moment where you have to ask yourself, "Did i just get trolled?", thats what a lot of us shoot for.

still rather pathetic....

ANY form of trolling

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.

Fapmaster5000:
ITT: Mass Effect 3's ending blew donkey dongs. That is all.

(Wait? Is trolling in a thread about trolling considered satire, or expected behavior? /mindblown)

That's not a trolling remark, that's an off-topic opinion. And based on the intention, flame-baiting. Still not a troll though.

Trolling would be something like "I liked ME3's ending for [poorly thought-out reasons] and anyone who disagrees with me is just too dim-witted to see the beauty in its construction." But given the thread it'd likely fail.

As for the article: hostility and harsh criticism will always exist on the internet. Don't confuse it with trolling. We have another, better construct for it, and it's called being an asshole.

GAunderrated:
Interesting that they needed a study to find out that trolls ruin chances of people having a rational debate or good conversation.

My thoughts exactly, but sometimes people do that themselves by accident when making a point without backing it up, then turning hostile to all counter-arguments as opposed to counter-counter arguments.

kouriichi:

snip.

I see what you did there....

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

Abomination:
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".

Indeed. I imagine the study was not about trolling at all, but about the effect of inflammatory comments. Unfortunately the link to the actual study returns a 404, so it might be all made up.

My own opinion is that the fear of trolls is much more damaging to a discussion than actual trolls themselves, who tend to be extremely rare. I find that when people create negative responses they are usually sincere about them, and have a point.

VanQQisH:
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.

And what do we burn apart from witches? MOAR WITCHEZ!!!!

OT: Seriously though, a scientific study on the effects of internet trolling? Really? Someone actually got a GRANT to perform this...that means that someone else PAID people to study this...

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.

RJ 17:

VanQQisH:
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.

And what do we burn apart from witches? MOAR WITCHEZ!!!!

OT: Seriously though, a scientific study on the effects of internet trolling? Really? Someone actually got a GRANT to perform this...that means that someone else PAID people to study this...

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.

As someone mentioned before, these kinds of studies don't cost a lot of money relative to things like cancer research. You can pump millions into finding cures for a disease and get nowhere, but putting a few thousand (if that) in to a physchological study and you get some vaguely interesting trivia. You might as well say that we should stop teaching people anything other than biomedical sciences, because having a degree in English literature isn't going to find the cure for AIDS. And by the same logic advanced maths is useless because it won't cure cancer!

These studies don't waste time and money because the people conducting the research were likely psychology students under the guidance of a supervisor, funded by their tuition fees. So it's not like the world is moving backwards just because someone wants to know something that isn't going to end all suffering and pain.

But it is kind of obvious that trolls piss on people's cornflakes. Do I get an MPsy too?

CriticalMiss:

RJ 17:

VanQQisH:
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.

And what do we burn apart from witches? MOAR WITCHEZ!!!!

OT: Seriously though, a scientific study on the effects of internet trolling? Really? Someone actually got a GRANT to perform this...that means that someone else PAID people to study this...

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.

As someone mentioned before, these kinds of studies don't cost a lot of money relative to things like cancer research. You can pump millions into finding cures for a disease and get nowhere, but putting a few thousand (if that) in to a physchological study and you get some vaguely interesting trivia. You might as well say that we should stop teaching people anything other than biomedical sciences, because having a degree in English literature isn't going to find the cure for AIDS. And by the same logic advanced maths is useless because it won't cure cancer!

These studies don't waste time and money because the people conducting the research were likely psychology students under the guidance of a supervisor, funded by their tuition fees. So it's not like the world is moving backwards just because someone wants to know something that isn't going to end all suffering and pain.

But it is kind of obvious that trolls piss on people's cornflakes. Do I get an MPsy too?

I love when people take something you've said and then say "by that logic" and insert some extreme position that the original comment in no way suggested. I'm not saying that EVERY study has to be about curing diseases and ending suffering, all I'm saying is that there's much more valuable infomation to be seeking than "Internet trolls piss people off." As has been pointed out by numerous others: it's a study into the obvious. Do we really need detailed information on just HOW internet trolls piss people off? Can we not just leave it at "they piss people off"? You mean to tell me that someone spitting flames and insults regarding a subject that some people are - for lack of a better term - passionate about can cause that passion to turn into irrational fury? Could that study not have been completed by basically just looking up the definition of "internet troll"? That's why I say studies like these are a waste of time and money. Then there's the fact that some studies just come up with wrong conclusions, or at the very least misleading.

I saw one stating that teenagers that smoke pot will suffer from a decaying IQ as they grow up. The study focused on a number of teens that smoked pot and tracked them from (I believe) ages 15-35, and it found that on average those that smoked pot as teens had lower IQs when the experiment ended than when it started. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that weed won't lower your IQ over time, but that's not a valid conclusion to draw from that study. Correlation does not prove causation. Over the course of 20 years there's any number of different things that could have caused the IQ to drop. Perhaps they took up drinking during that time and it's actually BOOZE that lowers IQ? Perhaps they started watching a lot of reality tv and that lowered their IQ.

But I'm getting off track here. My point is that studies into the obvious are a waste, and studies with misleading conclusions are even worse than a waste.

RJ 17:

CriticalMiss:

RJ 17:
Words

More words

So many words

I still disagree that it is a waste, someone is getting experience doing work on a study (be it number crunching or what have you) which will likely lead to a qualification. It's not going to change the world that we now have a study saying something we already know, but we don't have to pay anything for it and we aren't losing anything. But I think it is at least interesting that someone is looking in to WHY trolls are such twats and our interactions with them. Maybe it will lead to a vaccination against trollism.

Bostur:

Indeed. I imagine the study was not about trolling at all, but about the effect of inflammatory comments. Unfortunately the link to the actual study returns a 404, so it might be all made up.

Are you suggesting that these researchers are actually trolling us and in fact are basing their research on the comments from this new article under the guise of having a;ready completed their research? *grabs tinfoil hat*

On topic;

Yeah it really shouldn't surprise anyone one that hurtful stupid comments make people react irrationally. It happens enough in real life as it is, so I don't see why online comments should be any different.

So in other words, trolls don't ruin anything. Your lack of self control ruins it.
Forums and such have an ignore option for a reason. And when they don't, you can willingly choose to ignore it. Like with IRL trolls. Except that it's even easier on the internet.

To all those that don't see the point in the experiment I think the most important part of the result is that when someone presents their opinion in an inflammatory and tactless way all it does is make people hunker down and refuse to see other peoples opinions. This has a large number of practical applications. Now I know that all a strongly worded argument does is reinforce my opponents position. I now know that many opinions I hold are based on an innate defensive tendency that only gets worse the more genuine points are thrown at it.

I also see why the most discussed topics are the most polarising. If everyone just remained calm and collected about ME:3 then the ending wouldn't be seen as anywhere near as bad as it is now. That's probably why none of the reviewers mentioned it because they wouldn't have been exposed to all the strong opinions.

People not knowing this is probably why we don't have gay marriage already. the people trying to allow them were probably so vocal in their support of it that anyone even remotely iffy about the idea instantly went into defensive mode and fortified their belief with whatever justification was at hand and now won't budge a bloody inch.

This is why we always have such polarised major parties in almost every democracy because all the topics matter so much that you can't not advocate them passionately thereby ensuring that everyone who disagrees will never see reason.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I have to rethink absolutely all of my opinions because of ANOTHER subconscious force I did know about. And to think I use to deliberately pick apart the strongest opinions to see if there was any genuine criticism there when all I was doing was making it so my opinion was based more and more on emotion as opposed to logic.

RJ 17:
I love when people take something you've said and then say "by that logic" and insert some extreme position that the original comment in no way suggested. I'm not saying that EVERY study has to be about curing diseases and ending suffering, all I'm saying is that there's much more valuable infomation to be seeking than "Internet trolls piss people off." As has been pointed out by numerous others: it's a study into the obvious. Do we really need detailed information on just HOW internet trolls piss people off? Can we not just leave it at "they piss people off"? You mean to tell me that someone spitting flames and insults regarding a subject that some people are - for lack of a better term - passionate about can cause that passion to turn into irrational fury? Could that study not have been completed by basically just looking up the definition of "internet troll"? That's why I say studies like these are a waste of time and money. Then there's the fact that some studies just come up with wrong conclusions, or at the very least misleading.

I saw one stating that teenagers that smoke pot will suffer from a decaying IQ as they grow up. The study focused on a number of teens that smoked pot and tracked them from (I believe) ages 15-35, and it found that on average those that smoked pot as teens had lower IQs when the experiment ended than when it started. Now, I'm not going to sit here and say that weed won't lower your IQ over time, but that's not a valid conclusion to draw from that study. Correlation does not prove causation. Over the course of 20 years there's any number of different things that could have caused the IQ to drop. Perhaps they took up drinking during that time and it's actually BOOZE that lowers IQ? Perhaps they started watching a lot of reality tv and that lowered their IQ.

But I'm getting off track here. My point is that studies into the obvious are a waste, and studies with misleading conclusions are even worse than a waste.

(In a calm helpful tone of voice)All you did with that argument is enforce his already held beliefs just as all his did was enforce yours. The real message of this study is that if you want someone to listen to you you need to be friendly. Using a condescending tone, excess hyperbole, veiled insults or standing on an absolute opinion will only cause them to become defensive and focus more on what they need to do to maintain their opinion and less on any genuine points they might have.

(Joking cheerfully) Hell you weren't even arguing against me and reading your post made me all the more sure of myself in my interpretation of the article.

BiH-Kira:
So in other words, trolls don't ruin anything. Your lack of self control ruins it.
Forums and such have an ignore option for a reason. And when they don't, you can willingly choose to ignore it. Like with IRL trolls. Except that it's even easier on the internet.

But that was the point of the research. That trolls manage to overpower the self control of an otherwise rational person; making him became just as spiteful and irrational as them.

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.

Distance_warrior:
To all those that don't see the point in the experiment I think the most important part of the result is that when someone presents their opinion in an inflammatory and tactless way all it does is make people hunker down and refuse to see other peoples opinions. This has a large number of practical applications. Now I know that all a strongly worded argument does is reinforce my opponents position. I now know that many opinions I hold are based on an innate defensive tendency that only gets worse the more genuine points are thrown at it.

I also see why the most discussed topics are the most polarising. If everyone just remained calm and collected about ME:3 then the ending wouldn't be seen as anywhere near as bad as it is now. That's probably why none of the reviewers mentioned it because they wouldn't have been exposed to all the strong opinions.

People not knowing this is probably why we don't have gay marriage already. the people trying to allow them were probably so vocal in their support of it that anyone even remotely iffy about the idea instantly went into defensive mode and fortified their belief with whatever justification was at hand and now won't budge a bloody inch.

This is why we always have such polarised major parties in almost every democracy because all the topics matter so much that you can't not advocate them passionately thereby ensuring that everyone who disagrees will never see reason.

FFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now I have to rethink absolutely all of my opinions because of ANOTHER subconscious force I did know about. And to think I use to deliberately pick apart the strongest opinions to see if there was any genuine criticism there when all I was doing was making it so my opinion was based more and more on emotion as opposed to logic.

-clap clap clap clap- Someone gets it! Or at least what the study is most likely about.

The stupid thing about posting an article without the source material is we lose -alot- of context. I am on my last semester of my Bachelors degree in Psychology, and seriously, you need the journal article to know the specifics of this.

Most Psychology students go through -multiple- classes on -just- forming research ideas and writing journals. In those journals, there is -alot- of information pertaining to the study, past studies, research ideas, specific statistics, looking forward to future research, and many other things.

Honestly, this study could be the basis of a large idea that the researcher had in mind, this is just the starting point. Journals have to be very speicific in their ideas, so nothing else could be paired in the same journal as this study.

...Orrrrrrr, it could just be a throw away study by a student. That is completly possible. You know the funny thing about that though? Most students get absolutely -no- money to conduct research. Im doing my own study (about 7 months in, with breaks), and there is no profit in them. But thats ok, its research experience that is nearly a -must- for most graduate schools. Even though it may not mean much in the grand scheme of things, this little research could be cited and used to help back up ideas.

Also, people say 'Oh, this is common sense'. Yeah... Psychology does not accept common sense when we are forming ideas and theories. The reason shows in this article, its the -attitude- of the troll that causes people to get defensive, not the words themselves. Tada. That little specific means ALOT, especially when forming a new idea that incorporates that.

So... thats my soapbox. heh. Yeah.

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.

CpT_x_Killsteal:
Remember when trolls were actually funny

I'm not sure such a time existed.

rollerfox88:
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.

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