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Thu Jan 17, 2013, 12:48 PM

Mother Jones: The Science of Why Comment Trolls Suck

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/01/you-idiot-course-trolls-comments-make-you-believe-science-less

<snip>

The researchers were trying to find out what effect exposure to such rudeness had on public perceptions of nanotech risks. They found that it wasn't a good one. Rather, it polarized the audience: Those who already thought nanorisks were low tended to become more sure of themselves when exposed to name-calling, while those who thought nanorisks are high were more likely to move in their own favored direction. In other words, it appeared that pushing people's emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their preexisting beliefs.

In the context of the psychological theory of motivated reasoning, this makes a great deal of sense. Based on pretty indisputable observations about how the brain works, the theory notes that people feel first, and think second. The emotions come faster than the "rational" thoughts—and also shape the retrieval of those thoughts from memory. Therefore, if reading insults activates one's emotions, the "thinking" process may be more likely to be defensive in nature, and focused on preserving one's identity and preexisting beliefs.

The study did not examine online climate change trolls directly—but there is good reason to think that the effects of their obnoxious behavior will, if anything, be worse. As the researchers note in the paper, compared with climate change, relatively few people know much about or have strong feelings about nanotechnology. When it comes to climate change, in contrast, "the controversy that you see in comments falls on more fertile ground, and resonates more with an established set of values that the reader may bring to the table," explains study coauthor Dietram Scheufele, a professor of science communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. If commenters have stronger emotions and more of a stake, it stands to reason that the polarizing effect of their insults may be even stronger—although, to be sure, this needs to be studied.

The upshot of this research? This is not your father's media environment any longer. In the golden oldie days of media, newspaper articles were consumed in the context of…other newspaper articles. But now, adds Scheufele, it's like "reading the news article in the middle of the town square, with people screaming in my ear what I should believe about it."

11 replies, 1691 views

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Arrow 11 replies Author Time Post
Reply Mother Jones: The Science of Why Comment Trolls Suck (Original post)
Fumesucker Jan 2013 OP
1StrongBlackMan Jan 2013 #1
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #2
Journeyman Jan 2013 #3
WillyT Jan 2013 #4
bvar22 Jan 2013 #5
KurtNYC Jan 2013 #6
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #7
SunSeeker Jan 2013 #8
Ford_Prefect Jan 2013 #9
Fumesucker Jan 2013 #10
Ford_Prefect Jan 2013 #11

Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:01 PM

1. Great article ...

I must confess that the study's conclusion has applied to me far more than I would like to admit. But I recognized it and have been working on the "emotion preceeding rational" response thing.

I particularly liked this part:

The upshot of this research? This is not your father's media environment any longer. In the golden oldie days of media, newspaper articles were consumed in the context of…other newspaper articles. But now, adds Scheufele, it's like "reading the news article in the middle of the town square, with people screaming in my ear what I should believe about it."

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Response to 1StrongBlackMan (Reply #1)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:09 PM

2. Yeah, I pull the trigger before I've acquired the or even a target sometimes too







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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:32 PM

3. Great advice at the end of the article. . .

To be sure, we all retain the option of not reading the comments. Which, in light of the latest research, is looking smarter than ever.


I began filtering out commenters probably a decade or more ago. Even here on DU it's rare that I'll read beyond the first half dozen comments, and usually I only skim the Subject line listing and click to those that sound interesting. And as for trolls and sock puppets and what-all: Life's too short to wallow in kiddie scorn.

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 01:34 PM

4. K & R !!!


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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:34 PM

5. This explains WHY DU used to be a nicer place.

In the early days, DU WAS a Discussion Board,
and moved much more slowly.
People had the time to digest what they had read,
and compose a logical response that added information that was pertinent to the facts and issues presented by previous posters in a thread.
The threads were cohesive, and had a logical evolution.
They went somewhere.

NOW....its like a chat room.
It is a handicap to take time to think about what someone has said,
and compose a sensible response that refines a viewpoint,
or adds new information to the debate.

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Response to bvar22 (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:42 PM

6. Too danged true.

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Response to bvar22 (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 02:45 PM

7. Some of us still try to do that, I know you're one of them

As far as the state of DU goes I think it's more about being on the winning side since 2008, it was much easier to maintain cohesiveness when there was a common enemy to defeat and no larger than life figure for some to defend and others attack.

It's like constant primary season now, unfortunately the Democratic party has become about 90% of the political spectrum in America these days from fairly far left to something not far away from Reagan era Republicans so a lot of the political battles that in more normal times or nations would be happening between two or even more parties are instead within the Democratic party.







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Response to bvar22 (Reply #5)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 03:02 PM

8. Yup.

DU really sucks sometimes. Especially with the recent influx of gungeoneers. But it's still better than any other discussion board I know about. Do you know of any better (seriously, I'd like to know so I have a fall back)?

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Response to Fumesucker (Original post)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 03:44 PM

9. Recently DU seems like an attitude bar rather than a discussion saloon.

Many OP posts now seem to indicate the accepted attitude rather than information on the subject. Some of the more breathless headlines and comments do not seem to allow anything of substance in response but either compete agreement or contradiction. Sadly this leaves little room to air out the ideas or to include information which might add context to the discussion.

How sad indeed.

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Response to Ford_Prefect (Reply #9)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 04:04 PM

10. Such OPs tend to get more clicks and more replies than thoughtful pieces

Emotionally driven conflict drives clicks which equals income, far more people watch Days of Our Lives than Nova.

Psych 101 and Business 101

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Response to Fumesucker (Reply #10)

Thu Jan 17, 2013, 04:30 PM

11. No one ever accused yellow journalism of being unprofitable, merely sensational and addictive.

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