Editor's note

No one likes to run into a troll online. They ruin internet discussions with name-calling, profanity and dark personal attacks. So who exactly are these anonymous commenters?

In a new study, Justin Cheng at Stanford University and his colleagues reveal that these terrible trolls are often just ordinary people having a bad day. Their surprising results – based on an analysis of millions of posts on CNN.com – could help websites everywhere keep the conversation pleasant and (relatively) troll-free.

And in a post-truth time of alternative facts, Tufts University’s Ronald Pies describes the spectrum of lies, falsehoods and other delusions clinical psychiatrists encounter. You don’t have to be a pathological liar to have issues with the truth – we all fall prey to distortions of reality.

Aviva Rutkin

Big Data and Applied Mathematics Editor

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Trolling can spread from person to person. Cropped from Ayana T. Miller/flickr

Our experiments taught us why people troll

Justin Cheng, Stanford University; Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Cornell University; Michael Bernstein, Stanford University

You might think that trolling on the internet is done by a small, vocal minority of sociopaths. But what if all trolls aren’t born trolls? What if they are ordinary people like you and me?

Science + Technology

The phrase 'alternative facts' has recently made the news in a political context, but psychiatrists like me are already intimately acquainted with the concept – indeed, we hear various forms of alternate reality expressed almost every day.

Ronald W. Pies

Tufts University

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Ronald W. Pies

Politics + Society

Economy + Business

Ethics + Religion

  • Does empathy have limits? Depends on whom you ask

    C. Daryl Cameron, Pennsylvania State University; Michael Inzlicht, University of Toronto; William A. Cunningham, University of Toronto

    Research shows empathy itself does not have any limits. If it appears limited, it is because of people's goals, values and choices.

Environment + Energy

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