Looking After Number One: Associations Between Psychopathic Traits and Measures of Social Motivation and Functioning in a Community Sample of Males

  • Lucy Foulkes
  • Ana Seara-Cardoso
  • Craig S. Neumann
  • John S. C. Rogers
  • Essi Viding


Individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits do not typically form enduring bonds with others. However, few studies have documented the associations between psychopathic traits and social functioning. This study systematically explored associations between psychopathic traits and a number of measures characterising social/material goals, social beliefs and the need for belonging, providing a comprehensive assessment of aspects of social functioning associated with psychopathic personality traits. Additionally, a novel experimental vignettes task assessed the extent to which participants identified dominance in themselves and admired this trait in others. Community males with high levels of psychopathic traits appeared not to be motivated by meaningful, long-term relationships. Instead, they seemed to be motivated by goals relating to their own image and financial success. Additionally, these individuals admired dominance in others, but did not clearly identify this trait in themselves. Thus, this study is one of the first to empirically explore multiple areas of social functioning in relation to psychopathic traits, with a view to understanding the social motivations of individuals with high levels of these traits. The findings provide empirical evidence that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits seem motivated to look after themselves, but not others.


Psychopathic traits Social motivation Aspirations Friendship Need to belong Dominance 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lucy Foulkes
    • 1
  • Ana Seara-Cardoso
    • 1
  • Craig S. Neumann
    • 2
  • John S. C. Rogers
    • 1
  • Essi Viding
    • 1
  1. 1.Developmental Risk and Resilience Unit, Division of Psychology and Language SciencesUniversity College LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA

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