There’s Actually An Impaired Psychology Behind Sadistic Pranksters

RealClear Staff


     The pastime of pranking has burgeoned an entire subculture—people love watching...almost as much as the pranksters themselves enjoy pulling tricks. What started with guys like Tom Green Ashton Kutcher, has given rise to an entire army of ornery individuals with a sack of sinister surprises.

Now, with an ensemble of evil-esque endeavors, anyone with a Wi-Fi password can woo on-line watchers. Perhaps you’ve seen YouTuber Roman Atwood when he’s hoodwinking his wife via an array of tricks involving their toddler.

[Video: courtesy of Roman Atwood]

Other have taken their tricks to a terrifying level, like the Killer Clowns putting people in would-be deadly situations but never revealing the razz of it all to their victims. But what compels these extremists to incite fear in others?

Fear is a product of powerlessness and/or losing control. Everyone’s experienced this in one way or another—we often seek to get scared (e.g., watching horror movies, dressing up for Halloween, rollercoaster rides and/or funhouses). Oppositely, we find it fulfilling to dish out the drama.

“There is a value in being able to shock,” University of Derby-criminologist Tony Blockley said in an interview. He explained the fright desire derives from society’s obsession with sensationalism. Shock is simply yet unfortunately another way to impress.

“By attaining that ‘shock value,’ you feed your personal ego. There is a status, a credibility, a kudos attached to it,” he said. “We don’t shock or scare for the sake of shocking or scaring. We do it to achieve something.”

[Video: courtesy of Roman Atwood]

Fear is also a form of control—many get off on overpowering others. “In frightening someone,” Blockley added, “you are asserting your power and control over them. The intense, psychological drive to be dominant is predicated by an environment that aggrandizes these values. Why do they do it? Because they can. They can scare somebody. They can control someone. These [assailants] would never see the people they frighten as ‘victims.’ They don’t consider that person. They don’t try to. They see that person as an object for their achievement—not as a person.”

Additionally, while it’s easy to sit back and berate these tricksters while basking in their bad behavior, we ultimately perpetuate pranking—we see it as entertainment. In our minds, we’re not the ones actually inducing the fear—but many often seek schadenfreude. If you don’t believe it, simply skim through Erin Buckels’ research study entailing everyday people finding it favorable to grind insects to death!



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