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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


  • J. Maltby
  • L. Day
  • R.M. Hatcher
  • S. Tazzyman
  • E.J. Palmer
  • C.A. Frosch
  • M. O'Reilly
  • C. Jones
  • C. Buckley
  • M. Knieps
  • K. Cutts

Colleges, School and Institutes


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 areplicable bifactor model of conceptions of online trolls, with a general factor ofgeneral 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 onlinetrolling messages to establish the validity of the five factors. Three constructs(attention-conflict seeking, viciousness, and uneducated) were actively employedwhen 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 fivegroup factors were associated with resilience to trolling. Results indicated thatviewing online trolls as seeking conflict or attention was associated with a decrease inindividuals’ negative affect around previous trolling incidents. Overall, the findingssuggest that adopting an implicit theories approach can further our understanding andmeasurement of conceptions towards trolling through the identification of five salientfactors, of which at least one factor may act as a resilience strategy.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)448-466
Number of pages19
JournalBritish Journal of Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date25 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016