Implicit theories of online trolling: Evidence that attention-seeking conceptions are associated with increased psychological resilience

Br J Psychol. 2016 Aug;107(3):448-66. doi: 10.1111/bjop.12154. Epub 2015 Sep 25.


Three studies were conducted to investigate people's conceptions of online trolls, particularly conceptions associated with psychological resilience to trolling. In Study 1, a factor analysis of participants' ratings of characteristics of online trolls found a replicable bifactor model of conceptions of online trolls, with a general factor of general conceptions towards online trolls being identified, but five group factors (attention-conflict seeking, low self-confidence, viciousness, uneducated, amusement) as most salient. In Study 2, participants evaluated hypothetical profiles of online trolling messages to establish the validity of the five factors. Three constructs (attention-conflict seeking, viciousness, and uneducated) were actively employed when people considered profiles of online trolling scenarios. Study 3 introduced a 20-item 'Conceptions of Online Trolls scale' to examine the extent to which the five group factors were associated with resilience to trolling. Results indicated that viewing online trolls as seeking conflict or attention was associated with a decrease in individuals' negative affect around previous trolling incidents. Overall, the findings suggest that adopting an implicit theories approach can further our understanding and measurement of conceptions towards trolling through the identification of five salient factors, of which at least one factor may act as a resilience strategy.

Keywords: attention; conception; conflict; implicit; negative affect; resilience; trolling.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Self Concept*
  • Social Media*
  • Young Adult