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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The Dark Triad and interpersonal assessment of vulnerability : cues used and accuracy Black, Pamela Jean


Observer assessments of the character and emotional features of targets occur subconsciously and inform the nature of interpersonal interactions. Despite the frequency with which people engage in interpersonal perceptions, little is known about how observers come to their conclusions about the characteristics of others and whether these assessments are valid. This thesis examined the role of individual differences in interpersonal perception; specifically, I was interested in whether individuals with “dark” personalities (psychopathy, Machiavellianism, narcissism) who frequently victimize others may be more adept at assessing the traits of others to facilitate the ease of picking vulnerable targets. The purpose of the current thesis was twofold; first to generate a data-driven model of the manner in which individuals, particularly those possessing Dark Triad traits, assess others, including the cues that they use to inform their decisions. Secondly, I examined the accuracy of observers varying in Dark Triad traits in their ability to assess the personality and emotional traits characteristic of vulnerability in others. The results of the first part of the study revealed that high Dark Triad scoring individuals reliably use specific cues to derive their interpersonal assessments, and that there are a number of biases that Dark Triad individuals hold that may hinder their ability to accurately assess others. Specifically, those scoring high on the Dark Triad perceive others as less agreeable, having low self-esteem, and highly neurotic, anxious, and depressed. The results of the second part of the study reveal that indeed these negative perceptions of others hinder the ability of Dark Triad individuals to accurately assess others. There were few significant findings for accuracy, and the relationships that were significant revealed that Dark Triad individuals were worse at assessing others. When broken down by presentation modality, there were no significant Dark Triad by modality interactions, though there were a number of significant main effects of modality type. Specifically, participants were best able to assess target’s traits using the video only modality and were significantly worse at assessing target’s traits when using the transcript modality. The implications of these findings and future directions for research are discussed.

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