New research provides evidence that Dark Triad personality traits are associated with anti-feminist attitudes. The findings have been published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
The “Dark Triad” refers to a cluster of related but distinct personality traits, comprised of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Machiavellians are characterized by their manipulation of others or the exploitation of situations for their own advantage. Narcissists typically demonstrate a need for admiration, an inflated sense of self-importance, and a strong belief in their own superiority. Meanwhile, psychopathic individuals exhibit a high degree of impulsive along with a lack of empathy and remorse.
Lead author Melanie D. Douglass and her colleagues sought to better understand whether these maladaptive traits impact attitudes towards feminism. For their study, they recruited a sample of 343 individuals aged between 18 and 54 years of age from the United Kingdom.
To assess dark personality traits, the researchers had the participants complete the 27-item Short Dark Triad scale. The scientific measure asked participants the extent to which they agreed or disagree with statements such as “I’ll say anything to get what I want” (psychopathy), “People see me as a natural leader” (narcissism), and “I like to use clever manipulation to get my way” (Machiavellianism).
The participants also completed a questionnaire known as the FEM Scale, which asked participants the extent to which they agreed or disagree with statements such as “Women have the right to complete with men in every sphere of activity,” “A woman who refuses to bear children has failed in her duty to her husband,” and “Women should not be permitted to hold political offices that involve great responsibility.”
The researchers found that Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy were unique negative predictors of attitudes towards feminism in both men and women. In other words, those with a higher level of Machiavellianism, narcissism, and/or psychopathy were more likely to embrace anti-feminist attitudes.
The magnitude of these effects, however, was stronger for men than for women, which is consistent with previous research.
But what of the relationship between Dark Triad traits and anti-feminist attitudes among women? The researchers said that women high in Dark Triad traits might engage in more intrasexual competition and reject feminist ideals “because they favor their own self interests over that of solidarity with other women.”
“Future research could test this idea by examining the interplay between the Dark Triad, feminism, and intrasexual competition in men and women,” Douglass and her colleague wrote.
The findings shed new light on the relationship between Dark Triad personality traits and sociopolitical attitudes. But the researchers acknowledged that their study includes some limitations. For instance, the authors relied on self-report measures, which could be prone to socially desirable responding.
“The results were consistent with the hypotheses, all aspects of the Dark Triad negatively predicted feminism and Dark Triad traits significantly differing between men and women,” the researchers concluded. “However, endorsement of feminist attitudes did not differ between men and women. This adds to previous research suggesting that Dark traits are correlated with sexism but is the first known paper to directly investigate the relationship between Dark Triad and feminism. Given the negative consequences of sexism, and its impact on society, it is important to understand the factors that underpin such attitudes, so steps can be taken to combat them.”
The study, “The relationship between the Dark Triad and attitudes towards feminism“, was authored by Melanie D. Douglass, Michael Stirrat, Monica A. Koehn, and Robert S. Vaughan.