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An Examination of the Dark Triad Constructs with Regard to Prosocial Behavior

Jack A Palmer and Seth Tackett

It was hypothesized that altruism could be displayed by individuals scoring high on measures of the “dark triad traits” (Machiavellianism, narcissism, and subclinical psychopathy) if these individuals believed that the presumed altruism would in some way benefit them personally. However, measures of empathy, which are typically correlated with altruistic tendencies, would remain low in these individuals. Survey testing of a subclinical population of 281 college undergraduates confirmed these hypotheses for one of the dark triad constructs: Narcissism scores were found to be positively correlated with reciprocal altruism (p<0.02) and self-reported altruistic acts (p<0.003), whereas they were negatively correlated with affective empathy (p<0.0001).

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