I see how you feel: How the dark triad recognizes emotions

  • Arathy PuthillamEmail author
  • Sampada Karandikar
  • Hansika Kapoor


The present study (N = 212; 150 females) examined the relationships between the Dark Triad, empathy, and emotion recognition in a cross-cultural sample. The Dark Triad, especially psychopathy, impeded cognitive empathy, which highlights their indifference towards others’ emotional states. Further, the Dark Triad and primary psychopathy, but not secondary psychopathy, hampered emotion recognition, which was measured using multi-modal stimuli. We discuss how measures of psychopathy assess the construct differently, as well as how the relationship between psychopathy and emotion recognition is complicated. Finally, we found that those high on the Dark Triad spectrum were worse at recognizing the emotions of female actors on the Geneva Emotion Recognition Test.


Dark Triad Cognitive empathy Affective empathy Emotion recognition Alexithymia 



We thank Ahuti Das and Juhi Vajpayee for setting the foundations for this work.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This project has been granted ethical review from the institutional review board at Monk Prayogshala (MP Ethics Project ID Number: 016–016).

Informed Consent

Please consider the following information before deciding to participate in this research.

PURPOSE: To study the relationship between personality and emotion recognition.

WHO IS CONDUCTING THIS STUDY: This study is being conducted by Arathy Puthillam, Research Assistant at the Department of Psychology, Monk Prayogshala (, under the supervision of Sampada Karandikar, Senior Research Assistant at Monk Prayogshala (

HAS THIS STUDY BEEN APPROVED? Yes, this study has received Ethical Approval from the IRB at Monk Prayogshala, in January 2016 (#016–016). For queries regarding the same, you may contact

WHAT YOU WILL DO: You will begin by providing some demographic information about yourself. Following this, you will be asked to fill in three short personality questionnaires (10–15 min). Once this is done, you will be displayed a number of short videos (2–3 s), where actors will enact a range of emotions, while speaking gibberish. Your task would be to accurately identify each emotion from the options provided (10–15 min), without trying to understand the actors’ speech. Participation will require approximately 30–35 min. Please note: The emotion recognition test only works on Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Internet Explorer browsers, preferably on Windows desktops/laptops. Also, this survey will not work on mobile devices (i.e. mobile phones and tablets). Please do not continue if these requirements are not met by your device.

RISKS: There are NO anticipated risks with participating in this study.

BENEFITS: On completion, your email id will be entered into a raffle where you can win a Rs. 750/− Flipkart voucher! Your email id will only be used to enter you into the raffle and will not be associated with your identity in any way. [If you are not a resident of India, and if your email id is selected, you will be eligible for an Amazon gift card of the equivalent amount.]

CONFIDENTIALITY: Your participation will remain strictly confidential and your responses will not be associated with your identity. The results may be published in a research paper, and you may request to have a copy of the same once it is published. Please note that the researchers cannot provide you with your individual data, since all analyses will be conducted at the group-level.

PARTICIPATION AND WITHDRAWAL: Your participation in this study is completely voluntary, and you may withdraw at any time without penalty. If at any time during the study you begin to feel uncomfortable, you may exit the study by closing your browser window. However, once you’ve submitted your responses, you will have a 2-week window, should you choose to withdraw your data. This is because once data analyses begins, it will be difficult to extract individual data from the pool.

CONTACT: If you have any questions, comments or feedback regarding this study, you can contact us at

By clicking on the continue button, you are stating that you are over 18 years of age, and that you understand the provided information and consent to participate in the study being conducted.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyMonk PrayogshalaMumbaiIndia

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