Psychologists have identified the kind of emotional intelligence that makes internet trolls so mean

online behavior that indicated a propensity to troll—such as agreeing with the statement, “Although some people think my posts/comments are offensive, I think they are funny.”

.. The researchers were looking for particular traits including social skills, psychopathy, sadism, and two types of empathy: affective and cognitive. Having high cognitive empathy simply means they can understand others’ emotions. Having high affective empathy means a person can experience, internalize, and respond to those emotions. The “trolls” in the study scored higher than average on two traits: psychopathy and cognitive empathy.

So even though “trolls” exhibit one kind of empathy, coupling it with psychopathy ultimately makes them nasty

.. participants were asked to agree or disagree with a set of statements such as, “payback needs to be quick and nasty.”

.. High levels of cognitive empathy make these people adept at recognizing what will upset someone, and knowing when they’ve pushed the right buttons. The lack of affective empathy allows trolls not to experience or internalize the emotional experience of their victims.

.. “Results indicate that when high on trait psychopathy, trolls employ an empathic strategy of predicting and recognising the emotional suffering of their victims, while abstaining from the experience of these negative emotions,” the researchers wrote. They added that because psychopathy is associated with thrill-seeking and impulsivity, it’s possible that “creating mayhem online is a central motivator to troll.” They also found that trolls were likely to be high in sadism—the will to hurt others—and were more likely to be male.