Comment Trolls Suck and Now There’s Science to Prove It



“Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” — Mark Twain

There is no hell like the unseemly and raucous underbelly of the YouTube comments section. It only takes a moment in the hierarchical idiocracy to think the human race may forever be doomed. It is a place where idiots speak their mind and inflame the tempers of otherwise decent people. These people, who incite agressive and off-topic discussion, are in every comments section of every website on the Internet. We know that trolls are generically “bad,” but a recent study out of the University of Wisconsin proves the negative impact of trolls on reading, appreciating, and understanding a piece of journalism on the web.

The participants in the study were asked to ready an article outlining the risks and benefits of nanotechnology. Each person was exposed to the same text in the main article but varied responses in the comments section. Some of the comments included rude and antagonistic remarks such as “If you don’t see the benefits of nanotechnology, you’re an idiot.” (To be clear, this is a very tame example of an inflammatory comment but it produced results anyhow.)

The findings of the study showed what we all might have assumed. People who were exposed to emotional attacks doubled-down on their initial feelings. If a subject read the article and supported the benefits of nanotech, the troll comments made them feel even stronger about their position. People against felt more strongly against.

The psychological phenomena of motivated reasoning supports this finding. The human mind tends to react first with emotions and second with rational thought. The trolls incite an emotional response before reason, which causes people to be more defensive in their thinking and solidifies their current beliefs. This should make sense as one can assume shouting at people and calling them stupid seldom helps change their mind.

The defensive response cascades into the offended person writing back something slightly antagonizing which perpetuates a cycle of insanely offensive and unproductive blather. So, if you’re trying to make a point about something online, try to not end it with “ur hella gay.”


Attribution

Mother Jones


Commentary Ticker

  • Data Knows Best: Greatest TV Shows Get Ranked and Graphed
    March 26, 2014 | 10:50 am

    Every argument is better with charts and graphs. Sometimes a little linear regression can provide more insight than a long-winded report. GraphTV tests that theory by plotting the ratings of popular television shows. It all started with Breaking Bad. Data guru Kevin Wu was watching its fifth and final season and couldn’t help but think [...]

  • A Coin-Inspired National Spirit, Hopefully
    March 20, 2014 | 11:56 am

    The Lakota Nation, a group of seven Native American bands in North and South Dakota, voted to make a Bitcoin-like crypto-currency called MazaCoin their official currency, according to Forbes. Programmer and Lakota activist Payu Harris believes that the coin will help the Lakota people gain sovereignty over their land. “To be a truly independent state [...]

  • Smartguns and the Promise of Progress
    March 3, 2014 | 9:50 am

    With the recent Sandy Hook elementary school shooting (and the 44 school shootings since) still relatively fresh in our collective minds, and with Congress empirically unable to do anything to stop gun violence at all, it seems slowing, if not stopping, the gun violence epidemic has fallen on a strange coalition of gun manufacturers, Silicon [...]

  • Watch: Movies Without Imaginary Friends
    January 28, 2014 | 12:56 pm

    If you seriously haven’t watched Fight Club yet (or read the book by Chuck Palahniuk) stop and go do that right now. You’re fifteen years late to the craziest party. Okay, you’ve watched it now? Onwards. A visual effects specialist in New York accelerated himself to Internet fame in mid-January when he edited Tyler Durden [...]

  • The Racism of “Racism”: The Complicated Origins of the Term
    January 17, 2014 | 12:27 pm

    “Racism,” like race, was invented. The term “racism” has done a lot of heavy lifting for anti-racism advocates, helping to frame anyone discriminating by race as misguided. Just as with classism or sexism, not only does the word racism give name to an evil, it helps to create the thing as evil in the first [...]

  • RSSArchive for Commentary Ticker »

Join our mailing list!



Trending on The Airspace