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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The pleasures of hurting others : behavioral evidence for everyday sadism Buckels, Erin Evelyn


Past research on malevolent personalities has centered on subclinical psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism, which together comprise the Dark Triad of personality. The present research introduces everyday sadism—-a dispositional tendency to take pleasure in others’ suffering—-as an additional dark personality operating in the subclinical domain. Two studies examined everyday sadism as a unique predictor of antisocial outcomes. Study 1 examined sadistic behaviors using a bug-killing paradigm. Participants chose between several noxious tasks, including, (1) killing bugs, (2) helping the experimenter kill bugs, (3) cleaning toilets, or (4) ice water pain tolerance. As expected, sadists were more likely to choose to kill bugs over the other tasks. Study 2 examined the relationship between sadism and aggression using a white noise aggression paradigm. When aggression was not costly, sadism, psychopathy, narcissism, low empathic concern, and low perspective-taking predicted unprovoked aggression. However, as expected, only sadists were willing to work to aggress against an innocent person. In both studies, sadism emerged as an independent predictor of antisocial behavior when controlling for its overlap with the Dark Triad. Together, these findings support the incorporation of everyday sadism into the new Dark Tetrad of personality.

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