I did some searching but I was not able to find anything substantial on this topic either for or against. I am mainly trying to figure out whether online trolling is a way of redirecting otherwise destructive offline behavior.

So, is there a correlation between online vandalism (trolling) and offline vandalism (damaging/defacing public property)?

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not aware of any research on this topic. What I think is that certain aspects of online behavior such as trolling are often interpreted as "people doing what they would not dare do offline". From this I would deduce the hypothesis that online trolls are those individuals that have stronger inhibitions against aggressive behavior. $\endgroup$ – user3116 Jun 21 '13 at 11:12
  • $\begingroup$ @what That would be valid for the mild effortless trolls. However, there are a large number of people who post very elaborate and well thought out joke/spam posts. These individuals, I think would be the ones who would have similar urges in their day to day life as well, but I may be wrong. $\endgroup$ – asheeshr Jun 22 '13 at 3:31
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    $\begingroup$ Usually a difference is made between physical (punching someone) and verbal (devaluing someone) violence/aggressive behavior, between direct (telling someone to their face that you dislike them) and indirect (telling lies about someone) aggression, and between other-directed and self-directed (cutting, depression) aggression. It is found that men and women differ in this, with men tending to be more physical, direct and other-directed. There are different explanations for this phenomenon: different socialization, evolution etc. [contd.] $\endgroup$ – user3116 Jun 22 '13 at 5:40
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    $\begingroup$ [contd.] I believe that there are different aggressive "styles", and that maybe trolls (verbal) and vandals (physical) fall into different categories and have different personalities. $\endgroup$ – user3116 Jun 22 '13 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ @what So there will probably be zero correlation between the two. Why dont you write that up as an answer? $\endgroup$ – asheeshr Jun 29 '13 at 14:29

According to this study, there really is a correlation: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/02/internet_troll_personality_study_machiavellianism_narcissism_psychopathy.html

The research, conducted by Erin Buckels of the University of Manitoba and two colleagues, sought to directly investigate whether people who engage in trolling are characterized by personality traits that fall in the so-called Dark Tetrad: Machiavellianism (willingness to manipulate and deceive others), narcissism (egotism and self-obsession), psychopathy (the lack of remorse and empathy), and sadism (pleasure in the suffering of others).

It is hard to overplay the results: The study found correlations, sometimes quite significant, between these traits and trolling behavior. What’s more, it also found a relationship between all Dark Tetrad traits (except for narcissism) and the overall time that an individual spent, per day, commenting on the Internet.

The research document itself can be found here: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886914000324

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    $\begingroup$ You haven't mentioned any clear link to "real-world" vandalism here. It seems likely that these traits would relate to vandalism, and maybe establishing that would be as simple as adding another study demonstrating so, but since that was the original question, I think it's important to add something like that, or at least acknowledge any such assumption you're making. $\endgroup$ – Nick Stauner May 23 '14 at 17:04

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