The science of why comment trolls suck

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Chris Mooney delivers the results of a new study (paywalled) that reinforces the Andrew Sullivan’s stance, as well as my own, against the comments section:

Participants were asked to read a blog post containing a balanced discussion of the risks and benefits of nanotechnology … The text of the post was the same for all participants, but the tone of the comments varied. Sometimes, they were “civil”—e.g., no name calling or flaming. But sometimes they were more like this: “If you don’t see the benefits of using nanotechnology in these products, you’re an idiot.” 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 . . . Pushing people’s emotional buttons, through derogatory comments, made them double down on their pre-existing beliefs.

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