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).
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
Two studies examined the amplitude of the startle response as a function of the Dark Tetrad of personality (narcissism, Machiavellianism, psychopathy, and sadism). We measured electromyographic activity of the orbicularis oculi muscle evoked by a startle stimulus while participants viewed images on a computer screen. Both studies revealed a negative correlation between general startle reactivity (averaged across positive, negative, and neutral images) and sadistic tendencies. In Study 2, all four dark traits were negative correlates of general startle reactivity. Study 2 also examined the personality correlates of aversive startle potentiation (ASP; indexed by greater reactivity while viewing negatively-valenced images than positive or neutral images). ASP correlated negatively with a variety of personality measures of psychopathy and sadism, their facets, and related personality tendencies (callousness, risk-taking, and restricted affect). These findings suggest that ordinary people with high levels of callousness and antagonism display physiological evidence of non-reactivity (i.e., blunted acoustic startle in general), whereas psychopathy and sadism are preferentially associated with reduced ASP.
Consensus is emerging that the constellation of dark personalities should include the sadistic personality. To build a four-factor measure, we modified and extended the Short Dark Triad (SD3) measure to include sadism. A series of three studies yielded the Short Dark Tetrad (SD4), a four subscale inventory with 7 items per construct. Study 1 (N = 868) applied exploratory factor analysis (EFA) to a diverse 48-item pool using data collected on MTurk. A 4-factor solution revealed a separate sadism factor, as well as a shifted Dark Triad. Study 2 (N = 999 students) applied EFA to a reduced 37-item set. Associations with adjustment and sex drive provided insight into unique personality dynamics of the four constructs. In Study 3 (N = 660), a confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) of the final 28 items showed acceptable fit for a four-factor solution. Moreover, the resulting 7-item subscales each showed coherent links with the Big Five and adjustment. In sum, the four-factor structure replicated across student and community samples. Although they overlap to a moderate degree, the four subscales show distinctive correlates – even with a control for acquiescence. We also uncovered a novel link between sadism and sexuality, but no association with maladjustment.
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.
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.
Previous research reveals that individual differences in parental caregiving motives have implications (among both parents and nonparents) for a wide range of psychological outcomes. Here we report reanalyses of existing data sets to examine the extent to which these outcomes are uniquely predicted by two conceptually distinct factors underlying the parental caregiving motive: protection and nurturance. In doing so, we also psychometrically validate a brief self-report measure designed to efficiently assess individual differences in protection and nurturance. Results reveal that individual differences in parental protection uniquely predict a specific subset of attitudes and judgments (e.g., endorsement of restrictive parenting practices, harsher moral judgments of adults who violate social norms), whereas individual differences in parental nurturance uniquely predict a different subset of attitudes and judgments (e.g., nonparents desire to have children, preferences for committed romantic partners, more lenient moral judgments of children who violate social norms).
We report on the development, validation, and utility of a measure assessing individual differences in activation of the parental care motivational system: The Parental Care and Tenderness (PCAT) questionnaire. Results from 1,608 adults (including parents and nonparents) show that the 25-item PCAT measure has high internal consistency, high test–retest reliability, high construct validity, and unique predictive utility. Among parents, it predicted self–child identity overlap and caring child-rearing attitudes; among nonparents, it predicted desire to have children. PCAT scores predicted the intensity of tender emotions aroused by infants, and also predicted the amount of time individuals chose look at infant (but not adult) faces. PCAT scores uniquely predicted additional outcomes in the realm of social perception, including mate preferences, moral judgments, and trait inferences about baby-faced adults. Practical and conceptual implications are discussed.
In two online studies (total N = 1215), respondents completed personality inventories and a survey of their Internet commenting styles. Overall, strong positive associations emerged among online commenting frequency, trolling enjoyment, and troll identity, pointing to a common construct underlying the measures. Both studies revealed similar patterns of relations between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism, using both enjoyment ratings and identity scores. Of all personality measures, sadism showed the most robust associations with trolling and, importantly, the relationship was specific to trolling behavior. Enjoyment of other online activities, such as chatting and debating, was unrelated to sadism. Thus cyber-trolling appears to be an Internet manifestation of everyday sadism.
Outgroup dehumanization figures centrally in historical intergroup violence, yet little is known about the factors that promote dehumanized perceptions of others. Drawing on research highlighting the importance of disgust-relevant social categorizations and disgust sensitivity to outgroup dehumanization, the authors hypothesized that feelings of disgust causally facilitate dehumanized social cognition. To test this hypothesis, participants (N = 94) were randomly assigned to receive inductions of disgusted, sad, or neutral emotions. We then assessed their implicit associations between animals and an arbitrary outgroup created with a minimal-groups procedure. Results showed that although all participants demonstrated dehumanizing biases, disgusted participants showed the strongest associations between the outgroup and animals (and the ingroup with humanity). Participants in the sad and neutral groups did not differ. Disgust thus appears to have the unique capacity to foster the social-cognitive dehumanization of outgroup members.
Past research on socially aversive personalities has focused on subclinical psychopathy, subclinical narcissism, and Machiavellianism—the “Dark Triad” of personality. In the research reported here, we evaluated whether an everyday form of sadism should be added to that list. Acts of apparent cruelty were captured using two laboratory procedures, and we showed that such behavior could be predicted with two measures of sadistic personality. Study 1 featured a bug-killing paradigm. As expected, sadists volunteered to kill bugs at greater rates than did nonsadists. Study 2 examined willingness to harm an innocent victim. When aggression was easy, sadism and Dark Triad measures predicted unprovoked aggression. However, only sadists were willing to work for the opportunity to hurt an innocent person. In both studies, sadism emerged as an independent predictor of behavior reflecting an appetite for cruelty. Together, these findings support the construct validity of everyday sadism and its incorporation into a new “Dark Tetrad” of personality.
In common parlance, self-deception is the act of lying to oneself. When more rigorous definitions are attempted, this straightforward notion quickly becomes complex, if not impossibly paradoxical. Especially problematic is the assumption that self-deception is analogous to deceiving others. These difficulties have undermined the feasibility of operationalizing the concept and conducting research. Despite this checkered history, the possibility of confirming the existence self-deception remains so seductive that we enter the fray one more time.
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.
The iTroll questionnaire is a self-report measure of online trolling tendencies. Instructions Here are some questions about your attitudes toward online trolling.
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.