Whether you’re a flat earther, a climate change denier, or an anti-vaxxer, you could have dark personality traits, suggests a new study.
A psychologist at the University of Oregon has a tendency to believe in conspiracy theories associated with the term known in psychology as the Dark Tetrad.
Dark Tetrad encompasses four “dark” personality traits – narcissism, Machiavellian, psychopathy, and sadism.
Dark Tetrad traits can be associated with believing in conspiracy theories not because of traits that are unique to each of the traits, but because of traits shared between the traits, according to the study.
Belief in a flat earth suggests that the Dark Tetrad traits – narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism – are present
The study was conducted by Cameron S. Kay, a researcher at the University of Oregon’s Department of Psychology, who used five “mediators” to explain the connection between believing in conspiracy theories and a dark personality.
“Conspiracy theories may seem relatively harmless at first, but they have been linked to serious real-world consequences,” he said.
“Exposure to and belief in conspiracy theories has been linked to anti-Semitic beliefs, fear of vaccines, lower voting motivation, and lower propensity to stop climate change.
“To develop interventions to combat these beliefs, it is critical to understand not only the types of people who are attracted to these theories, but also why they are drawn to these theories.”
Anti-Vax conspiracy theorists attend a rally in New York City on March 20, 2021 holding signs that read “Arrest Bill Gates” and “They are lying to you.” Conspiracy theories may have been linked to serious real-world consequences – for example, the prolongation of the current pandemic
It is already known that high scores on certain aspects of the Dark Tetrad are more inclined to believe in conspiracy theories.
Each of the four characteristics of the Dark Tetrad – narcissism, Machiavellian, psychopathy, and sadism – consists of certain undesirable attributes.
Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others, a cynical disregard for morality, and a focus on self-interest and deception.
Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, selfishness, and lack of empathy, while psychopathy is characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impulsiveness, selfishness, numbness, and repentance.
Sadism, on the other hand, is characterized by the tendency to be cruel towards others out of lust or dominance.
WHAT IS THE “DARK TETRAD”?
Dark Tetrad is an extension of the original Dark Triad
The Dark Tetrad includes the personality traits narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy and sadism.
It is an extension of the “dark triad,” a name that is used to name three of the traits – narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.
If all four traits are found in a single person, it suggests a malevolent personality.
All four dark triad features are conceptually different, but have been shown to overlap.
Narcissism is characterized by grandiosity, pride, selfishness and a lack of empathy.
Machiavellianism is characterized by manipulation and exploitation of others. It is also often associated with a cynical disregard for morals and a focus on self-interest and deception.
Psychopathy is characterized by persistent antisocial behavior, impulsiveness, selfishness, numbness, and repentance.
While sadism is the tendency to derive pleasure, especially sexual satisfaction, from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others.
It can range from physical sadism (e.g., “I enjoy physically hurting people”, to verbal sadism (e.g., “I like to joke at the expense of others”) to vicarious sadism (z ‘)
For his study, Kay recruited 474 students with an average age of 19.5 – 66 percent of them women.
All participants completed scales and questionnaires to assess their “conspiracy idea” – the tendency to believe in conspiracy theories – as well as the prevalence of Dark Tetrad traits.
But Kay also recorded five “mediators” – tendencies to have strange beliefs, to be fatalistic, to be in control, to distrust others, and to feel the need to be unique.
In essence, these mediators can explain the connections between the features of the Dark Tetrad and the conspiracy idea.
For example, being fatalistic (that is, having little control over one’s life), demanding control, and distrusting others should mediate the connection between Machiavellian views and conspiratorial ideas.
Previous studies have often focused on a single mediator, which Kay says makes it impossible to compare the ability of different mediators to explain the relationship between the characteristics of the Dark Tetrad and conspiratorial ideas.
Overall, the results indicated that aspects of all four features of the Dark Tetrads are associated with conspiratorial ideas.
In addition, almost all associations were due to the tendency of those with aversive personalities to hold strange or unusual beliefs, be fatalistic, and distrust others (three out of five mediators).
“Contrary to what the previous literature would suggest, it appears that those with aversive personality traits believe in conspiracy theories for mostly the same reasons,” said Kay.
“Conspiracy thoughts may therefore arise from a common characteristic of these characteristics rather than from a characteristic that is unique to each characteristic.”
The study was published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN CONSPIRACY THEORY? YOU ARE PROBABLY A NARCISSIST, SAY RESEARCHERS
According to a study from 2015, people who doubt the moon landings tend to be selfish and attention-grabbing.
Over the course of three online-based studies, University of Kent researchers showed strong links between belief in conspiracy theories and negative psychological traits.
In a letter in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the team stated, “Previous research linked approval of conspiracy theories to low self-esteem.”
In the first study, a total of 202 participants filled out questionnaires on conspiracy beliefs and asked how much they agree with certain statements, such as whether governments have carried out acts of terrorism on their own soil.
In parallel, they were asked to fill out a narcissistic scale and self-esteem.
The results showed that those who scored high on the Narcissism Scale and had low self-esteem were more likely to believe in conspiracies.