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Individuals with dark traits have the ability but not the disposition to empathize

Journal article
Authors Petri Kajonius
T. Bjorkman
Published in Personality and Individual Differences
Volume 155
Pages 5
ISSN 0191-8869
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 5
Language en
Keywords Personality, Dark triad, Empathy, Cognitive ability, asperger-syndrome, emotional intelligence, universal values, triad, traits, sample-size, adults, machiavellianism, personality, narcissism, view, Psychology
Subject categories Psychology


Empathy is fundamental to social cognition and societal values. Empathy is theorized as having both the ability as well as the disposition to imagine the content of other peoples minds. We tested whether the notorious low empathy in dark personalities (Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and narcissism; the Dark Triad) is best characterized by a lack of capacity (ability) or lack of disposition (trait). Data was collected for 278 international participants through an anonymous online survey shared on the online platform LinkedIn, consisting of trait-based Dark Triad personality (SD3) and empathy (IRI), and cognitive ability (ICAR16) and ability-based empathy (MET). Dark personality traits had no relationship with ability-based empathy, but strongly so with trait-based empathy (beta = -0.47). Instead, cognitive ability explained ability-based empathy (beta = 0.31). The finding is that dark personalities in a community sample is normally cognizant to empathize but has a low disposition to do so. This finding may help shed further light on how personality is interlinked with ability.

Page Manager: Webmaster|Last update: 9/11/2012

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