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Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Brenda Lundy- Jackson


Department of Psychology

Sponsor Department/Program

Department of Psychology


Theory of mind (ToM, or the tendency to consider the mental processes of others; Astington, 2003) has been linked to important social-relationship skills within the developmental literature (Hughes & Dunn, 1998; Keenan, 2003; Lalonde & Chandler, 1995; Peterson & Siegal, 2002; Slaughter, Dennis, & Pritchard, 2002; Watson, Nixon, Wilson, & Capage, 1999). The findings of a recent study suggest, however, that children's ToM may also be linked to more negative social characteristics (Sutton, Smith & Swettenham, 1999). Few studies have examined links between adult ToM and various types of social-personality characteristics. Given the recent findings of the link between children's ToM and manipulation, adults' ToM was explored in relation to negative attributes (i.e., machiavellianism). The purpose of the present research was to examine adults' level of engagement in ToM in relation to negative social-personality characteristics in the Dark Triad (machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy). It was hypothesized that individuals with higher levels of ToM would be more likely to engage in negative personality characteristics, while those who reported lower levels of ToM would not. The relations among adults' ToM and negative (e.g., machiavellianism) social-personality characteristics were assessed using a sample of 123 undergraduate students (80 males and 43 females). Participants completed the Imposing Memories Task (IMT, a measure of ToM) and the Dirty Dozen (DD; Jonason & Webster, 2010), two tasks that have been used in previous literature. Unlike some of the recent developmental research which we used to construct our hypothesis, we found that adults' ToM scores were inversely related to negative personality characteristics, such as manipulation (machiavellianism, r =-.22, p<.01), narcissism (r=-.16, p<.05) and psychopathy (r=.26, p<.005). In other words, adults who scored higher on the ToM tasks were less likely to engage in negative personality characteristics (machiavellianism and narcissism). This suggests a positive link between children's ToM and negative characteristics (e.g., machiavellianism). The present findings contribute to the understanding of adult ToM in relation to social-personality characteristics. This is important because the use of ToM can help understand and predict bullying. Further research is needed to study the relations among these variables in real life situations.



Is Social Understanding Related to the Dark Triad?

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