Machiavellians may be the most intelligent of the dark personalities.

In popular culture, “evil genius” characters-that is, someone who combines brilliance with malevolence-have had recurring popularity. There is even a widespread misconception, which I have discussed in a previous post, that psychopaths are more intelligent than the average person (Furnham, Daoud, & Swami, 2009), even though research has not found this to be the case (O’Boyle, Forsyth, Banks, & Story, 2013). On the other hand, a recent study suggests that Machiavellianism, a cynical and manipulative approach to interpersonal relations, actually may be associated with high intelligence (Kowalski et al., 2018)…

Does a cosmic perspective threaten the self? Not much, it seems

Certain writers have claimed that contemplating the vastness of space-time induces feelings of nihilistic dread, i.e. overwhelming feelings of being insignificant that threaten one’s sense of self. Such “cosmic horror” was a major theme in the works of H.P. Lovecraft, who wrote that we humans are protected by our own ignorance of the “vast infinities” in which we live and that becoming aware of the “terrifying vistas of reality” would either drive us mad or impel us to “retreat into a new dark age.”

This idea was famously parodied…

Machiavellian personalities may enjoy political campaigning more than others.

In personality psychology, Machiavellianism refers to a cynical and manipulative approach to interpersonal relationships that embraces “moral flexibility” for personal gain. People high in Machiavellian traits, or “Machs,” place a high priority on money, power, and competition, and are said to pursue their goals at the expense of, or at least without regard for the welfare of, others (Jones & Paulhus, 2009).

Machiavellianism has also been identified as a member of the “ dark triad,” a group of socially aversive, self-centered traits that also includes narcissism (a grandiose sense of one’s…

Specific personality traits are related to drug use.

Psychologists have long been interested in understanding what factors influence whether a person takes recreational drugs. Personality traits are well known to influence many areas of a person’s life, and drug-taking is no exception. Several studies on the subject have looked at the Big 5 personality traits: openness to experience, which relates to the breadth and complexity of a person’s mental life; conscientiousness, which relates to organization and self-discipline; extraversion, related both to sociability and pleasure-seeking; agreeableness, related to cooperation and consideration for others; and neuroticism, related to emotional instability and mental health problems.

A recent study (Allen & Laborde…

Pet ownership preferences may reflect personality differences

Many studies have tried to understand the factors that affect whether people own pets. One recent study (Perry & Burge, 2020) examined the role of religion in pet ownership and found that people who attended religious services more frequently tended to own fewer pets. More specifically, they were less likely to own cats than other people, but not less likely to own dogs. The reasons for this are unclear, but they might relate to the personality traits of those who prefer dogs over cats.

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To examine the relationship between religious service attendance and pet ownership, the authors (Perry & Burge…

Are men who pay for sex and use porn sexist? Quite the opposite.

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Exploitation? Or Appreciation?

Contemporary opposition to sex work, such as prostitution and pornography, is based on the belief that sex work is incompatible with gender equality because it is not only degrading to women, but plays a role in maintaining structural inequality in society. These arguments are often rooted in radical feminist theorizing that prostitution reinforces cultural ideals based on dominance and control of women and that pornography encourages men to accept abusive attitudes to women and/or women to accept sexual subjugation by men. However, these negative claims about sex work are contradicted by the fact that modern sexually liberal societies in which…

Dark Triad traits are related to sexist attitudes, but why?

The “ Dark Triad” of personality represents socially aversive traits that are related to selfish and antisocial attitudes and behavior. The members of this triad are psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism, which encompasses callous disregard for the rights of others, a cynical, manipulative approach to social interaction, and a grandiose sense of one’s own superiority to others and feelings of entitlement to special treatment, respectively.

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Sex differences in the dark triad on display.

Many studies have found that, on average, men tend to be higher in the Dark Triad than women. Various explanations have been proposed, with some emphasizing…

Probably because it is a weird concept that does not even match reality.

Social psychologists have developed names for a host of biases in the ways people perceive behavior. The fundamental attribution error (FAE) is not only one of the most famous of these biases, but apparently, one of the most frequently misunderstood. Many laypeople confuse the FAE with distinctly different phenomena, such as the self-serving attribution bias.

Such confusion is not limited to laypeople, however. A recent article by a sociologist making a misguided attempt to apply a sociological/social psychological analysis to the popular TV show Game of Thrones

The infamous experiment was even more deeply flawed than previously suspected.

The infamous Stanford Prison experiment (SPE), conducted in 1971-in which Philip Zimbardo recruited young men to become either “prisoners” or “guards” in a mock prison, with disastrous results-has long drawn criticism for its sloppy methodology and the exaggerated conclusions about the psychology of evil that Zimbardo drew from it.

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In the subsequent decades, Zimbardo has repeatedly claimed that the SPE illustrated the “power of the situation” in driving good people to behave in cruel and dehumanizing ways. …

In two previous posts, I introduced the concept of “spiritual intelligence” as described Robert Emmons, a hypothetical ability to use spiritual information to solve problems-particularly those related to meaning in life-to bring about personality integration. I suggested that, although it is unlikely that this corresponds to a completely separate intelligence, it might represent a genuine area of human functioning that could be worth exploring further. Then, I discussed some of the psychological features that might underlie whatever “spiritual intelligence” is.

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Having considered what spiritual intelligence might substantively involve, potential criticisms of the concept need to be addressed. Although Emmons (2000a)…

Scott McGreal

Blogging about psychology research, especially in personality and individual differences, as well as psychedelic drug research, and whatever else takes my fancy

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