“A Lot More Bad News for Conservatives, and a Little Bit of Bad News for Liberals? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Follow-up Study”


In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing 11 significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on 15 additional moral issues. The new issues examined include illegal immigration, abortion, the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the war on terrorism, laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and environmentalism. 1154 participants (680 male, 472 female; median age 29), recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk, completed three surveys: a 15-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), the 28-item Short Dark Triad personality inventory, and a five-item demographic survey. The results strongly reinforce my earlier findings. Twenty-two significant correlations were observed between “conservative” judgments and the Dark Triad (all of which were significant past a Bonferonni-corrected significance threshold of p = .0008), compared to seven significant correlations between Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments (only one of which was significant past p = .0008). This article concludes by developing a novel research proposal for determining whether the results of my two studies are “bad news” for conservatives or liberals.

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  1. 1.

    All three additional data sets are available upon request.

  2. 2.

    I thank an anonymous reviewer for pressing this point.

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    Cohen’s [9] famous and oft-cited guidelines for interpreting effect-size in the behavioral sciences are: r = .10 indicates a small effect, r = .30 a medium effect, and r = .50 a large effect. These six liberal relationships all fall short of the r = .10 threshold denoting a small effect.

  4. 4.

    Again, these additional samples are available from me upon request.


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I would like to thank Neil Levy and an anonymous reviewer at Neuroethics for their very helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Marcus Arvan.




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Arvan, M. “A Lot More Bad News for Conservatives, and a Little Bit of Bad News for Liberals? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Follow-up Study”. Neuroethics 6, 51–64 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12152-012-9155-7

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  • Personality
  • Morality
  • Psychopathy
  • Narcissism
  • Machiavellianism