The science of why comment trolls suck

Chris Mooney, Mother Jones:

In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.

Mooney cites a recent study from George Mason University that looked at how comment trolls affected participants’ perception of perceived risks with nanotech. The result was interesting.



  • http://darcyfitzpatrick.tumblr.com/ Darcy Fitzpatrick

    I found this passage particularly interesting:

    “In other words, it appeared that pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.”

    This blog often uses derogatory language when criticizing Apple’s competitors and critics. Turns out that’s a powerful form of pandering.

  • http://trishussey.com Tris Hussey

    I’ve found as well that trolls, or just completely negative comments, chill not only other commenters, but authors as well. Why take a risk on an edgy, interesting piece if there is a good chance someone will just p*ss all over it?

    • Walt French

      Sites put up commenting opportunities PRECISELY to elicit various flame wars.

      A VERY FEW, eg Asymco.Com, have such balanced analysis (vs advocacy & pro- or anti-issue posturing) that almost nobody bothers to offset a sense of inadequacy by shouting.

      And one or two, eg DaringFireball.Net, just cut it off. You go there for Gruber’s ideas, only.

      So the rest know that they get more readers, at the risk of things getting out of hand and lowering the average IQ so much that their CPMs fall despite the greater number. Some sites don’t really offer much besides rehashed news that Those Who Care will have found hours or even weeks earlier; they have little to lose. Others have a bit of a challenge to stay on the cutting edge without losing their grounding. I hope that the Fortune/Apple2.0 blog recovers from one very anti-social type scaring people away.

  • dr.no

    Mother Jones’ back pages are filled with anti-science and conspiracy ads. Any kind of Science coming out of Mother Jones should be taken with grain of salt.

    This study would only make sense if you didn’t know about liberal and conservative brain. which seems the researcher doesn’t know anything about them. or any kind of cognitive research.

    How about 50% of scientific paper’s results cannot be verified or duplicated. How can that be called science.