Dark Triad traits predict propensity to engage in revenge porn

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Research by psychologists at the University of Kent has found that a majority of people would endorse the use of revenge porn and that those who actually post it have a distinct personality profile.

Although only 29% of participants in the study reported a likelihood to engage in revenge porn activity, 99% of people expressed at least some approval (e.g. did not feel remorse) of revenge porn being posted online when presented with a scenario about a partner walking out on them. The researchers also found that 87% of participants expressed at least some excitement or amusement with revenge porn.

Revenge porn is the act of sharing intimate, sexually graphic images and/or videos of another person onto public online platforms, such as Facebook.

The research team, led by Dr Afroditi Pina at the University’s School of Psychology, established for the first time that there is a link between revenge porn proclivity and specific psychological characteristics.

The team found a positive correlation between a greater propensity to engage in revenge porn and higher levels of the ‘Dark Triad’ of psychological characteristics, which comprises of people endorsing psychopathy, Machiavellianism and narcissism. It was found that psychopathic traits, like impulsivity and lack of empathy, were most strongly linked with revenge porn perpetration.

The researchers concluded that, although most participants would be ‘unlikely to commit an act of revenge porn themselves’, there is an ‘acceptance’ among the majority of behaviour they know is ‘frequently occurring online’.

This, they say, could have significant implications ‘especially if one considers the facilitating role of online bystanders in the rapid dissemination of revenge porn materials’.

The study involved 100 adults aged 18-54. Eight-two of those talking part were female.

The paper, entitled The Malevolent Side of Revenge Porn Proclivity: Dark Personality Traits and Sexist Ideology (Afroditi Pina, James Holland and Mark James, all University of Kent), is published in the International Journal of Technoethics.

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