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.
Continue reading ““Successful” Psychopaths Learn To Control Their Antisocial Impulses”
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.
Continue reading “Religious People In The US — But Not Elsewhere In The World — Have More Negative Attitudes Towards Science”
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.
Continue reading “People Who Crave Structure Are More Likely To Declare That Errors In Media Reports Are “Fake News””
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”.
Continue reading “Self-Compassion Can Protect You From Feeling Like A Burden When You Mess Things Up For Your Group”
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.
Continue reading “Here’s How Our Personality Changes As We Age”
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.
Continue reading “Involvement In Workplace Democracy Can Alter Your View Of Authority”
By Emma Young
Though COVID-19 is front and centre right now, most people would agree that climate change is the biggest threat facing humanity. As we explored earlier this year, how to engage people to combat that change is a thornier subject. Now a major new meta-analysis, published in Psychological Science, has revealed that particular personality traits are associated with more — or fewer — pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours.
The work has potentially important practical implications. Reframing pro-environmental campaigns to resonate with people who would otherwise be more resistant to them could effect real change. As the researchers write, “personality factors may play a significant and systematic role in such reframing.”
Continue reading “Here Are The Personality Traits Most Strongly Associated With Being Environmentally Conscious”
By Emma Young
Memory complaints are fairly common among elderly people. Together with low participation in cognitively demanding activities, such as reading or doing crosswords, they can predict future declines — including the risk of developing dementia.
It might seem likely, then, that people with poorer cognitive functioning may report more problems, and may be less able to engage in (and so benefit from) reading or other stimulating activities. However, a new paper, published in Psychology and Aging, suggests that another factor is more important in predicting both these complaints and engagement in stimulating activities: personality. Continue reading “Memory Complaints Are More Common Among Older Adults With Particular Personality Traits”
Photo: A child looks at a Darth Vader mask at an exhibition in the Louvre, Paris, in 2015. Credit: Chesnot/Getty Images
By Emma Young
Watching Return of the Jedi with my kids the other night, I found myself quite liking Darth Vader. After all, he’s self-disciplined, determined, conscientious, and uncompromising — while also being (almost) entirely evil…
It’s no secret that we can find fictional villains fascinating. It’s been argued that that’s because we are evolutionarily drawn to understanding bad guys, as well, of course, to seeing the good guys prevail. But new research, published in Psychological Science, suggests that this is not the full story.
Continue reading “We’re Drawn To Fictional Villains Who Are Similar To Us”
By Emily Reynolds
Though it may vary based on context or mood, most of us have a fairly steady belief in how intelligent we think we are. Whether that belief is in any way accurate or even helpful is a different question — one 2019 study found that people who were happier to admit they don’t know something actually had better general knowledge, whilst a survey from the year before found that the majority of Americans believed they were smarter than average. We’re also susceptible to the same foibles when it comes to those close to us, tending to rate our romantic partners as more intelligent than they actually are.
But how early do our ideas about our own intelligence start, and how do they relate to other facets of our personality? In new research published in Personality and Individual Differences, Marcin Zajenkowski looks at just that.
Continue reading “Teenagers Who Believe They Are Particularly Intelligent Tend To Be More Narcissistic And Happier With Life”