There may be more sadists lurking in our midst than we'd like to think, according to a new study from the University of British Columbia and the University of Texas at El Paso. After offering a group of college students the chance to play exterminator and kill live bugs, researchers found "acts of apparent cruelty" and evidence of "everyday sadism"—a less pathological variety of deriving pleasure from being cruel.
More than 70 psychology students participated in the study, which they thought was about "personality and tolerance for challenging jobs." (Interesting example of how female-dominated psychology classes are—women made up almost 73 percent of the sample.) They had to choose between four unpleasant tasks: killing bugs, helping the experimenter kill bugs, cleaning dirty toilets, or enduring an ice bath.
The researchers suggest that sadism is perhaps more common than we normally think of it. Sure, there's crazy serial killer variety sadism, but it also might manifest itself more commonly in everyday life. Like, perhaps, on the internet.
The researchers are planning to expand their sadism research in the context of online trolling. "Trolling culture is unique in that it explicitly celebrates sadistic pleasure, or 'lulz,'" University of British Columbia psychologist Erin Buckels said in a press statement. Oh no, the lulz!