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Psychopathy and online trolling : examining the mediating effect of relationship quality
Hager, Elsa Ann
Myers, Sarah Elizabeth
Edwards, Cole Michael
May 8, 2019
Department or Program
Online trolling is a disruptive, antisocial behavior that occurs on the Internet. It is crucial to better understand this phenomenon, because individuals who are victims of trolling may experience emotional distress. Researchers have established a link between online trolling and psychopathy, but how the two are related has not been studied extensively. The social compensation hypothesis suggests that individuals may turn to excessive use of social media to compensate for poor offline relationships. We collected data from 247 participants via an online survey to measure the associations between online trolling behavior, relationship quality, and trait psychopathy. We predicted a positive correlation between trait psychopathy and online trolling. We also predicted negative correlations between relationship quality and online trolling, and between psychopathy and relationship quality. We further predicted that relationship quality would partially mediate the association between psychopathy and online trolling. As expected, we found a significant, positive correlation between trait psychopathy and online trolling and a negative correlation between trait psychopathy and relationship quality. Contrary to our expectations, we did not find a significant correlation between online trolling and relationship quality. We also did not find support for the mediational hypothesis. The results are inconclusive with regard to whether individuals high on psychopathy engage in trolling behavior to compensate for poor relationship quality. Our exploratory results suggest that trolling behavior is instead simply reflective of high levels of meanness associated with psychopathy.