Those misogynistic losers who harass women online? Turns out they’re literally, well, losers, according to new research.
For their study, recently published in journal PLOS One, University of New South Wales’ Michael Kasumovic and Miami University’s Jeffrey Kuznekoff observed 163 games of “Halo 3,” chosen for its non-sexualized storyline, online multiplayer objectives, player rankings and lack of visual differentiation between male and female characters.
After watching how the games played out and analyzing in-game comments, the researchers found that while men were generally pleasant to each other regardless of skill level or relative success in completing objectives, “lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly.”
Kasumovic and Kuznekoff hypothesized that the reason for poorly performing male competitors’ negative comments toward female teammates is a psychological directive to keep the sexist status quo:
“As men often rely on aggression to maintain their dominant social status, the increase in hostility towards a woman by lower-status males may be an attempt to disregard a female’s performance and suppress her disturbance on the hierarchy to retain their social rank.”
In other words, insecure men are more likely to tear down women, rather than other men, to prop themselves up. The researcher duo added:
“Low-status males that have the most to lose due to a hierarchical reconfiguration are responding to the threat female competitors pose. High-status males with the least to fear were more positive, suggesting they were switching to a supportive, and potentially, mate attraction role.”
While the study can’t fully account for offline sexism, it at least confirms that, yes, those sexist trolls really are just losers.