Erin E. Buckels

Erin E. Buckels

Assistant Professor of Psychology

University of Winnipeg


Dr. Erin Buckels is an Assistant Professor of Psychology (Social-Personality area). As the Principal Investigator of the Dark Personality Research Lab at the University of Winnipeg, Dr. Buckels uses a combination of survey and experimental methods to explore the psychological underpinnings of human cruelty. Much of her research centers on the Dark Tetrad of personality: subclinical sadism, psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. Her current projects are supported by an Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)

  • Dark personality traits
  • Everyday sadism
  • Cyber-psychology
  • Personality assessment
  • PhD in Social-Personality Psychology, 2018

    University of British Columbia

  • MA in Social-Personality Psychology, 2012

    University of British Columbia

  • BA (Hons.) in Psychology, 2009

    University of Winnipeg


Internet trolling and everyday sadism: Parallel effects on pain perception and moral judgment

Objective: This research seeks to clarify the association between online trolling and sadistic personality, and to provide evidence that the reward and rationalization processes at work in sadism are likewise manifest in online trolling.

Method: Online respondents (community adults and university students; total N = 1,715) completed self‐report measures of personality and trolling behavior. They subsequently engaged in one of two judgment tasks. In Study 1, respondents viewed stimuli depicting scenes of emotional/physical suffering and provided ratings of (a) perceived pain intensity and (b) pleasure experienced while viewing the photos. In Study 2, the iTroll questionnaire was developed and validated. It was then administered alongside a moral judgment task.

Results: Across both studies, online trolling was strongly associated with a sadistic personality profile. Moreover, sadism and trolling predicted identical patterns of pleasure and harm minimization. The incremental contribution of sadism was sustained even when controlling for broader antisocial tendencies (i.e., the Dark Triad, callous‐unemotionality, and trait aggression).

Conclusions: Results confirm that online trolling is motivated (at least in part) by sadistic tendencies. Coupled with effective rationalization mechanisms, sadistic pleasure can be consummated in such everyday behaviors as online trolling.

Dispositional malevolence and impression formation: Dark Tetrad associations with accuracy and positivity in first impressions

Objective: The Dark Tetrad traits (subclinical psychopathy, narcissism, Machiavellianism, and everyday sadism) have interpersonal consequences. At present, however, how these traits are associated with the accuracy and positivity of first impressions is not well understood. The present article addresses three primary questions. First, to what extent are perceiver levels of Dark Tetrad traits associated with differing levels of perceptive accuracy? Second, to what extent are target levels of Dark Tetrad traits associated with differing levels of expressive accuracy? Finally, to what extent can Dark Tetrad traits be differentiated when examining perceptions of and by others?

Method: In a round‐robin design, undergraduate participants (N = 412) in small groups engaged in brief, naturalistic, unstructured dyadic interactions before providing impressions of their partner.

Results: Dark Tetrad traits were associated with being viewed and viewing others less distinctively accurately and more negatively.

Conclusions: Interpersonal perceptions that included an individual scoring highly on one of the Dark Tetrad traits differed in important ways from interactions among individuals with more benevolent personalities. Notably, despite the similarities between the Dark Tetrad, these traits had unique associations with interpersonal perceptions.

Research Instruments


Comprehensive Assessment of Sadistic Tendencies (CAST-12)

The CAST-12 is a brief (12-item) measure of sadistic personality. It contains subscales for three distinct variants: Direct verbal sadism, direct physical sadism, and vicarious sadism.

iTroll Questionnaire

The iTroll questionnaire is a self-report measure of online trolling tendencies. Instructions Here are some questions about your attitudes toward online trolling.

Parental Care and Tenderness (PCAT) Questionnaire

The PCAT questionnaire is a measure of individual differences in the activation of the parental care motivational system. It is suitable for administration with both parents and non-parents.

Short Dark Tetrad (SD4)

The SD4 is a brief (28-item) self-report questionnaire designed to assess the Dark Tetrad of personality: Machiavellianism, narcissism, psychopathy, and sadism.