Category: Personality

Viewing Images Of Injuries Can Enhance People’s Sadistic Tendencies

By Emily Reynolds

Psychologists have long discussed the idea that there exists a set of “dark” personality traits alongside the more benign Big Five — so much so, in fact, that one team of researchers argued that too much time had been spent pondering the darker side of human nature and that a “Light Triad” was needed to counteract it.

There is also debate around whether such traits — psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism and sadism — are stable, or whether they can be induced. The most famous exploration of the question is almost certainly Zimbardo’s Prison Experiment, which claimed that being in a powerful position over others — in this case, acting as a prison guard — could induce sadistic behaviour in apparently non-sadistic people. The experiment’s influence is undeniable; it’s even been made into a film. But it has also been subject to criticism, casting some doubt over the extent of its findings.

Now a new paper in Personality and Individual Differences has joined the conversation, examining whether sadistic tendencies can be induced. The study finds that they can — particularly in people who already have some level of sadistic interest — but leaves a question mark over what that might mean for real world behaviour.

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People Who Want To Be More Empathic May Also Develop “Liberal” Moral Values

By Emily Reynolds

No matter how happy you are in yourself, there’s probably something about your personality you’d like to change. Maybe you feel you’re too uptight or want to be more outgoing, or perhaps you’d like to be less moody or more tolerant of other people’s shortcomings.

It’s likely that such a change in personality will have some kind of social consequence, whether that’s in your relationship with your spouse or your ability to get on with your colleagues. But it might also affect which moral values you hold important.

That’s what Ivar R. Hannikainen and colleagues suggest in a new paper in the Journal of Research in Personality. They found that growth in one area, empathy, was associated with a shift in moral foundations to a more classically “liberal” style of morality.

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Selfish And Combative People Don’t Actually Get Ahead At Work

By Emily Reynolds

In popular culture, there’s an idea that lots of successful people are… well, not that nice. From Glengarry Glen Ross to The Apprentice, there’s a litany of bad bosses and aggressive success stories in film and television. The message seems to be that to get ahead you need to ditch the niceties and think about number one.

This stereotype might not reflect what’s really going on, however. In a new longitudinal study published in PNAS, a team from the University of California, Berkeley and Colby College tracked individuals over a fourteen year period, looking to see what became of those who were more disagreeable (not a cohort many of us would particularly long to be in).

They found that selfish, combative, and manipulative people have no real advantage at work — not because there are no benefits to such behaviour, but because its positive and negative impacts cancel each other out.

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More Entitled People Get Angrier After Experiencing Bad Luck

By Matthew Warren

We’ve all had the experience of losing our temper when being treated unfairly by someone else. And while anger isn’t the most pleasant emotion, it can be a useful social tool to signal to another person that we’re not happy with how they’re acting towards us.

But what about when we suffer because of bad luck, rather someone else’s actions? In that case it would seem to make little sense to get mad. And yet, a new study in Personality and Individual Differences finds that a certain group of people are more likely to show anger in such situations: those who feel like they are particularly entitled in the first place.

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“Successful” Psychopaths Learn To Control Their Antisocial Impulses

By Emma Young

You’ll be familiar with the concept of the “successful psychopath”. Like regular psychopaths, such people are callous and manipulative, self-seeking, and free from guilt — but rather than ending up behind bars, they are able to flourish in their careers.

However, though the concept of the successful psychopath is popular, it’s also contentious. That’s because there’s been a lack of data to substantiate it, or to explain it. But now, ten years after an initial study hinted that levels of the personality trait of conscientiousness might be important for understanding the path to “successful” vs criminal psychopathy, a new study, published in Personality Disorders: Theory, Research and Treatment, provides more robust support for that idea.

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Religious People In The US — But Not Elsewhere In The World — Have More Negative Attitudes Towards Science

By Matthew Warren

It’s a common view among the public — and certain intellectuals — that science and religion are in fundamental opposition to each other, despite claims to the contrary. As Richard Dawkins put it in his essay The Great Convergence, “To an honest judge, the alleged convergence between religion and science is a shallow, empty, hollow, spin-doctored sham.”

Part of this conviction that science and religion cannot be reconciled comes down to a belief that the two doctrines are psychologically incompatible. How can someone put their faith in a divine being while also trying to make sense of the world through careful observation and hypothesis testing?

But a new study in Social Psychological and Personality Science casts doubt on the idea that religious people tend to be less scientifically-minded. Jonathon McPhetres from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and colleagues find that while the link between religiosity and negative attitudes towards science is pretty robust in the United States, in other countries that relationship is very different.

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People Who Crave Structure Are More Likely To Declare That Errors In Media Reports Are “Fake News”

By Emily Reynolds

There’s been much interest in what drives fake news over the last few years: who exactly shares it, and why? But beyond actual fake news — that is, purposefully misleading information spread online to further a particular agenda — recent years have also seen many people labelling genuine journalism as untrustworthy or downright false.

There are obvious ideological drivers to this, with some keen to undermine political opponents by any means necessary. But there might be another reason people are drawn to declaring “fake news!”: a need for order.

Viewing publications as susceptible to honest mistakes or human error implies a world in which information can be distorted for unpredictable reasons; viewing them as deliberately and methodically deceiving readers for sinister reasons, on the other hand, implies some sort of order. It therefore follows that those who crave structure may also be more likely to deem articles false, suggest Jordan R. Axt from McGill University and colleagues in a study in Psychological Science.

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Self-Compassion Can Protect You From Feeling Like A Burden When You Mess Things Up For Your Group

By guest blogger Itamar Shatz

It feels bad to know that you’ve messed up, especially when other people have to pay a price for your actions. Unfortunately, this feeling is something that most of us end up experiencing at one point or another — when we’re placed on a team with other people at school or at a job, for instance, and make a mistake that forces our team members to do more work as a result.

However, recent research, published in Social Psychology by James Wirth at Ohio State University and his colleagues, shows that there is a trait that can reduce those negative feelings, called “self-compassion”.

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Here’s How Our Personality Changes As We Age

By Emma Young

The once popular idea that our personality becomes “set like plaster” by the age of 30 has been refuted by studies showing that we do change —  and can even purposefully change ourselves. Many studies have identified shifts in Big Five traits across the lifespan. However, the often inconsistent results have made for ongoing controversy about how personality typically changes with age.

Now a new analysis of data from 16 longitudinal studies, with a total sample of more than 60,000 people from various countries, reveals some important insights. The work, published by Eileen Graham at Northwestern University, Chicago, and her colleagues in the European Journal of Personality Research, suggests that there are indeed some clear patterns of change through middle age and into older age for at least four of those five traits.

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Involvement In Workplace Democracy Can Alter Your View Of Authority

By Emily Reynolds

Authoritarianism, as a trait, tends to be thought of as an enduring part of a person’s personality. But can this deference to authority be changed? According to new work in Nature Communications, it can — at least in the short term.

In studies conducted with textile workers in China and administrative staff at a university in the United States, researchers found that encouraging workers to attend weekly democratic meetings led to a significant change in the way they felt about authority, justice and participation.

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