Date of Publication


Degree Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. David Abwender, Associate Professor, Psychology


This study looked to find a connection between personality and online behavior. Internet trolling has been described as “the practice of behaving in a deceptive, destructive, or disruptive manner in a social setting on the Internet with no apparent instrumental purpose” by Buckels, Trapnell and Paulhus (2014), who suggested that trolling provides enjoyment for persons with certain “dark” personality traits. These traits included psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and especially sadism. While these traits give a sense of who trolls, they fail to provide an explanation for the underlying psychological processes that drive trolling. This study used Rose-Karsnor’s (1997) definition of social competence, which states social competence is “the ability to achieve personal goals in social interaction while simultaneously maintaining positive relationships with others over time and across settings” (p. 113). This study utilized the Interpersonal Competence Questionnaire to measure social competence, as this questionnaire has been used for measuring social competence and online behavior before (Jenkins-Guarnieri, Wright, & Johnson, 2013; Yang & Brown, 2015). This study also sought to analyze Effectance Motivation, which is the need to have an effect on one’s environment, in relation to trolling and social competence. Individuals who score high on Effectance Motivation and low on social competence are believed to also score the highest on trolling behaviors. This study utilized the introductory psychology class as a subject pool, and administered online questionnaires to measure the variables of interest. The study used a regression framework, measuring the relationships between the predictor (social competence and Effectance Motivation) and criterion variables (trolling). A relationship between the variables was indeed found, with high Effectance on People and low Emotional Support predicting with high levels of trolling. Specifically, analyses indicate that Effectance Motivation and social competence predicted trolling; ΔR2= .133, p<.000, and that an interaction effect was also found ΔR2=.032, p<.01, which indicates that trolling is indeed predicted by a combination of low social competence and high Effectance Motivation. These findings can illuminate previous research on trolling among dark personalities. Empathy and Effectance Motivation among dark personality traits also needs to be studied in the future.