You can be on Entrepreneur’s cover!

Are Online Comment Trolls Actually 'Psychopathic Sadists'? A new study suggests that yes, yes they are.

By Laura Entis

entrepreneur daily

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Ah, internet trolls, those aggressive commentators who sow discord, start arguments and generally try and make as many people as possible feel terrible through ugly and often off-topic comments.

If they seem like psychopathic sadists that's because, as a new study published this week in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences suggests, they probably are.

Related: Social Media Is Getting Nasty. How Can You Rise Above It?

Survey respondents were asked about their online behavior, including how much time they spend online and whether or not they frequently leave comments on news websites. Commenters who said that they most enjoyed using the internet for trolling (as opposed to other, sunnier options like "chatting with others," or "debating issues that are important to you") displayed personalities strongly linked to sadism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism. The connection between trolling and sadistic behavior was particularly robust, and strong enough for the authors to conclude that "online trolls are prototypical everyday sadists."

Pretty dramatic, eh?

The more time a person spent online, the study found, the more likely he or she was to display sadistic characteristics. Of course, not all commentators are trolls. Only 5.6 percent of respondents were identified as trolls, while 44.3 percent were identified as "non-commenters," meaning that trolls account for a minority of online commentators.

In all, the study confirms what feels obvious: trolls do what they do because they enjoy it. "Both trolls and sadists feel sadistic glee at the distress of others," the study notes. "Sadists just want to have fun … and the Internet is their playground!"

Related: How to Handle Negative Online Reviews

Laura Entis is a reporter for Fortune.com's Venture section.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Diversity

Representation In AI Development Matters — Follow These 5 Principles to Make AI More Inclusive For All

Four out of five leaders and other execs want to learn more about how to use AI in their professional roles, but how can you craft it to also make diversity and inclusion a collective North Star?

Business News

NASA Reveals What the Strange Object Was that Fell From the Sky and Tore Through a Florida Home's Roof

The home's owner, Alejandro Otero, allowed NASA to collect and analyze the sample after attempting to connect with the agency through a post on X, formerly Twitter, last month.

Business News

Renowned Psychologist Adam Grant Says This 3-Step Leadership Method Will Help Fight Employee Burnout

We spoke to the bestselling author at BetterUp's Uplift conference last week.

Side Hustle

This Flexible Side Hustle Is Helping Millions Earn Extra Cash — and Might Be 'More Attractive' Than an Office Job

Side hustles remain popular for additional income — and have many questioning the 9-5 model altogether.

Leadership

How Entrepreneurs Can Harness the Power of Stoicism to Build Resilience and Thrive in the Business World

Here's how the ancient philosophy of Stoicism can benefit modern entrepreneurs.

Growing a Business

Building a Culture of Quality — How to Ensure Your Products, Processes and Teams Meet the Highest Standards

Quality should be at the center of your organization. Here's how to define and maintain quality standards in every aspect of your business.