Online hate: the psychological predictors of haters’ behavior
The derogatory attitude has long been identified as a serious social problem. Unsurprisingly, along with the growing popularity of the internet, such behaviors have also been observed in online settings (Blaya, 2019; Gauducheau, 2019; Johnson et al., 2019; Mathew et al., 2019) and therefore identified as online hate. .
Online hate does not necessarily consist in expressing a disparaging opinion about a social group. Indeed, it can be derogatory without referring to the social position of a given person or object and / or aiming at diminishing the social position of a group (Nockleby, 2000).
Despite the growing literature on hate online (Blaya, 2019), currently little is known about the personal characteristics of people – online haters – who routinely engage in such behaviors.
A recent study (Sorokowski et al., 2020) sought to identify psychological predictors of those who routinely post hate comments online, focusing on the following traits: the Dark Triad (narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism), the level of frustration experienced, the level of envy experienced and satisfaction in life. To do this, the characteristics of people posting hate and non-hate comments on the Internet against Polish athletes during the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang were compared, thus dividing the champion into two groups: haters and non-haters. Ninety-four users (41% women) participated in the study, of whom 46 were identified for posting haters.
One month after their identification and consent to participate in the study, users were invited to undergo a psychological investigation, filling out a series of questionnaires: the Dark Triad Questionnaire (Jonason & Webster, 2010) for the assessment of levels of narcissism , psychopathy and Machiavellianism; the Scale of Frustration (built specifically for the study) for measuring frustration levels; the Scale of Envy (Tandoc et al., 2015) for measuring the levels of envy and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (Diener et al., 1985) for evaluating satisfaction in life.
The results showed that higher scores on psychopathic traits were significant predictors of posting hate comments online; higher levels of envy were marginally significant. For the other scales, there were no significant differences.
These findings provide initial evidence that people who engage in contemptuous behavior online would be characterized by high levels of psychopathic traits, but, contrary to previous studies, they did not have high levels of other traits commonly associated with destructive behavior.
This study is one of the first to establish a psychological background for online haters and it is hoped that future research will continue to shed light on an increasingly widespread phenomenon, whose countermeasures are still evidently ineffective.