Skip to main content

Interpersonal and Affective Psychopathy Traits Can Enhance Human Fitness

Abstract

Recently, attempts have been made to determine the evolutionary status of psychopathy. However, there is still a gap in empirical literature regarding the connection between psychopathy and fitness. In the present study, we explored the relations between the four-factor model of psychopathy and reproductive success as a fitness indicator in a sample of male convicts (N = 181). Direct relations were analyzed, together with the interaction effects between psychopathy and family risk factors (presence of criminality, substance abuse, and maltreatment in participants’ families). Basic regression models showed that the facet of interpersonal style is positively related to fitness, while other psychopathic characteristics had a negative connection with the criterion measure. Additionally, we found three significant interactions, which further clarified the relation between psychopathy and reproductive success. One of the interactions showed that affective traits can facilitate fertility in unfavorable environmental conditions. Results support a hypothesis of a possible adaptive function of psychopathy, broaden the concept of “successful psychopathy,” and confirm a view of psychopathy as a heterogeneous and complex construct, consisting of facets with distinct content.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Notes

  1. However, the reader must have in mind that the data regarding the relation between psychopathy and psychological functioning is complex and ambiguous (see for example Neumann and Pardini 2014 and Vitacco et al. 2005). Besides the fact that these relations are quite likely complex in their nature, the heterogeneity in findings can be also attributed to the variability in measures for exploring both psychopathy and criteria variables and using diverse samples (convicts, patients, college, community samples) in the research.

  2. As an additional analysis of the relations between the examined variables, we provide the table of correlations between psychopathy, family risk factors and the raw number of children in the Appendix.

References

  • Aharoni, E., Antonenko, O., & Kiehl, K. A. (2011). Disparities in the moral intuitions of criminal offenders: the role of psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 45, 322–327. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2011.02.005.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Benning, S. D., Patrick, C. J., Hicks, B. M., Blonigen, D. M., & Krueger, R. F. (2003). Factor structure of the psychopathic personality inventory: validity and implications for clinical assessment. Psychological assessment, 15, 340–350. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.15.3.340

  • Benning, S. D., Patrick, C. J., Salekin, R. T., & Leistico, A. R. (2005). Convergent and discriminant validity of psychopathy factors assessed via self-report: a comparison of three instruments. Assessment, 12, 270–289. doi:10.1177/1073191105277110.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Blais, J., Solodukhin, E., & Forth, A. E. (2014). A meta-analysis exploring the relationship between psychopathy and instrumental versus reactive violence. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 41, 797–821. doi:10.1177/0093854813519629.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blom, G. (1958). Statistical estimates and transformed beta-variables. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

    Google Scholar 

  • Boddy, C. R., Ladyshewsky, R., & Galvin, P. (2010). Leaders without ethics in global business: corporate psychopaths. Journal of Public Affairs, 10, 121–138. doi:10.1002/pa.352.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bouchard Jr., T. J. (2014). Genes, evolution and intelligence. Behavior Genetics, 44, 549–577. doi:10.1007/s10519-014-9646-x.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Chaplin, W. F. (2007). Moderator and mediator models in personality research: a basic introduction. In R. W. Robins, R. C. Fraley, & R. F. Krueger (Eds.), Handbook of research methods in personality psychology (pp. 602–632). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Caldwell, M. F. (2011). Treatment-related changes in behavioral outcomes of psychopathy facets in adolescent offenders. Law and Human Behavior, 35, 275–287. doi:10.1007/s10979-010-9239-z.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Caspi, A., Hariri, A. R., Holmes, A., Uher, R., & Moffitt, T. E. (2010). Genetic sensitivity to the environment: the case of the serotonin transporter gene and its implications for studying complex diseases and traits. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 167, 509–527. doi:10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.09101452.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • da Silva, D. R., Rijo, D., & Salekin, R. T. (2015). The evolutionary roots of psychopathy. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 21, 85–96 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2015.01.006.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Del Giudice, M., & Belsky, J. (2011). The development of life history strategies: Toward a multi-stage model. In D. M. Buss & P. H. Hawley (Eds.), The evolution of personality and individual differences (pp. 154–176). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Del Giudice, M., Hinnant, J. B., Ellis, B. J., & El-Sheikh, M. (2012). Adaptive patterns of stress responsivity: a preliminary investigation. Developmental Psychology, 48, 775–790. doi:10.1037/a0026519.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gagnon, A., Smith, K. R., Tremblay, M., Vézina, H., Paré, P. P., & Desjardins, B. (2009). Is there a trade-off between fertility and longevity? A comparative study of women from three large historical databases accounting for mortality selection. American Journal of Human Biology, 21, 533–540. doi:10.1002/ajhb.20893.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gao, Y., Raine, A., Chan, F., Venables, P. H., & Mednick, S. A. (2010). Early maternal and paternal bonding, childhood physical abuse and adult psychopathic personality. Psychological Medicine, 40, 1007–1016. doi:10.1017/S0033291709991279.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Gervais, M. M., Kline, M., Ludmer, M., George, R., & Manson, J. H. (2013). The strategy of psychopathy: primary psychopathic traits predict defection on low-value relationships. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 280, 20122773. doi:10.1098/rspb.2012.2773.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Glenn, A. L., Kurzban, R., & Raine, A. (2011). Evolutionary theory and psychopathy. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 16, 371–380. doi:10.1016/j.avb.2011.03.009.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gutiérrez, F., Gárriz, M., Peri, J. M., Ferraz, L., Sol, D., Navarro, J. B., et al. (2013). Fitness costs and benefits of personality disorder traits. Evolution and Human Behavior, 34, 41–48. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2012.09.001.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hall, J. R., & Benning, S. D. (2006). The “successful” psychopath: adaptive and subclinical manifestations of psychopathy in the general population. In C. J. Patrick’s (Ed.), Handbook of psychopathy (pp. 459–478). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R. D. (2003). The Hare Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (2nd ed.). Toronto, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R. D., & Neumann, C. S. (2005). Structural models of psychopathy. Current Psychiatry Reports, 7, 57–64. doi:10.1007/s11920-005-0026-3.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R. D., & Neumann, C. S. (2008). Psychopathy as a clinical and empirical construct. Annual Review of Clinical Psychology, 4, 217–246. doi:10.1146/annurev.clinpsy.3.022806.091452.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hare, R. D., & Neumann, C. S. (2009). Psychopathy and its measurement. In P. J. Corr & G. Matthews (Eds): Cambridge handbook of personality psychology (pp. 660-686). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Harpur, T. J., Hare, R. D., & Hakstian, A. R. (1989). Two-factor conceptualization of psychopathy: construct validity and assessment implications. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1, 6–17. doi:10.1037/1040-3590.1.1.6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Holtzman, N. S., & Strube, M. J. (2013a). Above and beyond short-term mating, long-term mating is uniquely tied to human personality. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 1101-1129. Doi:147470491301100514.

  • Holtzman, N. S., & Strube, M. J. (2013b). People with dark personalities tend to create a physically attractive veneer. Social Psychological and Personality Science, 4, 461–467. doi:10.1177/1948550612461284.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jacobson, N. C. (2016). Current evolutionary adaptiveness of psychiatric disorders: fertility rates, parent–child relationship quality, and psychiatric disorders across the lifespan. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 125, 824–839. doi:10.1037/abn0000185.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  • Jonason, P. K., Koenig, B. L., & Tost, J. (2010). Living a fast life: the dark triad and life history theory. Human Nature, 21, 428–442. doi:10.1007/s12110-010-9102-4.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jonason, P. K., & Webster, G. D. (2012). A protean approach to social influence: dark triad personalities and social influence tactics. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 521–526. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.11.023.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, D. N., & de Roos, M. S. (in press). Differential reproductive behavior patterns among the dark triad. Evolutionary Psychological Science, advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s40806-016-0070-8.

  • Kaplan, H. S., & Gangestad, S. W. (2005). Life history theory and evolutionary psychology. In D. M. Buss (Ed.), The handbook of evolutionary psychology (pp. 68–95). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc..

    Google Scholar 

  • Kastner, R. M., & Sellbom, M. (2012). Hypersexuality in college students: the role of psychopathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 53, 644–649. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2012.05.005.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kerig, P. K., Bennett, D. C., Thompson, M., & Becker, S. P. (2012). “Nothing really matters”: emotional numbing as a link between trauma exposure and callousness in delinquent youth. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 25, 272–279. doi:10.1002/jts.21700.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Krupp, D. B., Sewall, L. A., Lalumière, M. L., Sheriff, C., & Harris, G. T. (2012). Nepotistic patterns of violent psychopathy: evidence for adaptation? Frontiers in Psychology, 3, 1–8. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00305.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lalumière, M. L., Harris, G. T., & Rice, M. E. (2001). Psychopathy and developmental instability. Evolution and Human Behavior, 22, 75–92. doi:10.1016/S1090-5138(00)00064-7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lalumière, M. L., Mishra, S., & Harris, G. T. (2008). In cold blood: the evolution of psychopathy. In J. Duntley & T. K. Shackelford (Eds.), Evolutionary forensic psychology: Darwinian foundations of crime and law (pp. 139–159). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lang, S., af Klinteberg, B., & Alm, P. O. (2002). Adult psychopathy and violent behavior in males with early neglect and abuse. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 106, 93–100. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0447.106.s412.20.x.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leistico, A. R., Salekin, R. T., DeCoster, J., & Rogers, R. (2008). A large-scale meta-analysis relating the Hare measures of psychopathy to antisocial conduct. Law and Human Behavior, 32, 28–45. doi:10.1007/s10979-007-9096-6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lilienfeld, S. O., Gershon, J., Duke, M., Marino, L., & de Waal, F. (1999). A preliminary investigation of the construct of psychopathic personality (psychopathy) in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Comparative Psychology, 113, 365–375 http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/0735-7036.113.4.365.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Lilienfeld, S. O., Waldman, I. D., Landfield, K., Watts, A. L., Rubenzer, S., & Faschingbauer, T. R. (2012). Fearless dominance and the U.S. presidency: implications of psychopathic personality traits for successful and unsuccessful political leadership. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 103, 489–505. doi:10.1037/a0029392.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Marcinkowska, U. M., Lyons, M. T., & Helle, S. (2016). Women’s reproductive success and the preference for dark triad in men’s faces. Evolution and Human Behavior, 37, 287–292. doi:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2016.01.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McDonald, M. M., Donnellan, M. B., & Navarrete, C. D. (2012). A life history approach to understanding the dark triad. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 601–605. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2011.12.003.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mealey, L. (1995). The sociobiology of sociopathy: an integrated evolutionary model. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 18, 523–541. doi:10.1017/S0140525X00039595.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Međedović, J. (2015). Nomološka mreža psihopatije [Nomological network of psychopathy]. Beograd: Institut za kriminološka i sociološka istraživanja.

    Google Scholar 

  • Međedović, J. (2016). Can family risk-factors moderate the link between psychopathy and life-history strategy? Psihološka istraživanja, 19, 23–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mokros, A., Osterheider, M., Hucker, S. J., & Nitschke, J. (2011). Psychopathy and sexual sadism. Law and Human Behavior, 35(3), 188–199. doi:10.1007/s10979-010-9221-9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Neel, R., Kenrick, D. T., White, A. E., & Neuberg, S. L. (2015). Individual differences in fundamental social motives. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Advance online publication doi. 10.1037/pspp0000068.

  • Neumann, C. S., Hare, R. D., & Pardini, D. A. (2015). Antisociality and the construct of psychopathy: data from across the globe. Journal of Personality, 83, 678–692. doi:10.1111/jopy.12127.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Neumann, C. S., & Pardini, D. (2014). Factor structure and construct validity of the Self-Report Psychopathy (SRP) Scale and the Youth Psychopathic Traits Inventory (YPI) in young men. Journal of Personality Disorders, 28, 419–433. doi:10.1521/pedi_2012_26_063.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Neumann, C. S., Schmitt, D. S., Carter, R., Embley, I., & Hare, R. D. (2012). Psychopathic traits in females and males across the globe. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 30, 557–574. doi:10.1002/bsl.2038.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. M. (2002). The dark triad of personality: narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556–563. doi:10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00505-6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Penke, L., Denissen, J. J., & Miller, G. F. (2007). The evolutionary genetics of personality. European Journal of Personality, 21, 549–587. doi:10.1002/per.629.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ragsdale, K. A., & Bedwell, J. S. (2013). Relationships between dimensional factors of psychopathy and schizotypy. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 1–7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00482.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ross, S. R., Benning, S. D., & Adams, Z. (2007). Symptoms of executive dysfunction are endemic to secondary psychopathy: an examination in criminal offenders and noninstitutionalized young adults. Journal of Personality Disorders, 21, 384–399. doi:10.1521/pedi.2007.21.4.384.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Swogger, M. T., Walsh, Z., & Kosson, D. S. (2007). Domestic violence and psychopathic traits: distinguishing the antisocial batterer from other antisocial offenders. Aggressive Behavior, 33, 1–8. doi:10.1002/ab.20185.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Vitacco, M. J., Neumann, C. S., & Jackson, R. L. (2005). Testing a four-factor model of psychopathy and its association with ethnicity, gender, intelligence, and violence. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73, 466–476. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.73.3.466.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Vitacco, M., Neumann, C., & Wodushek, T. (2008). Differential relationships between the dimensions of psychopathy and intelligence: replication with adult jail inmates. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 35, 48–55. doi:10.1177/0093854807309806.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, G. C. (1996). Adaptation and natural selection: a critique of some current evolutionary thought. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Woodley of Menie M. A., de Baca, T. C., Fernandes, H. B., Madison, G., Figueredo, A. J., & Aguirre, M. P. (2016). Slow and steady wins the race: K positively predicts fertility in the USA and Sweden. Evolutionary Psychological Science, advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s40806-016-0077-1

  • Zietsch, B. P., Kuja-Halkola, R., Walum, H., & Verweij, K. J. (2014). Perfect genetic correlation between number of offspring and grandoffspring in an industrialized human population. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111, 1032–1036. doi:10.1073/pnas.1310058111.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Janko Međedović.

Ethics declarations

Funding

The work on this manuscript was financed by the Serbian Ministry of Education, Science and Technical Development as part of the project 47011—“Crime in Serbia: Phenomenology, risks and possibilities of social intervention.”

Conflict of Interest

The authors declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this manuscript.

Appendix

Appendix

We provide the associations between the psychopathy facets, family risk factors, and raw number of children.

Table 3 Correlations between family risk factors, number of children, and psychopathy

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Međedović, J., Petrović, B., Želeskov-Đorić, J. et al. Interpersonal and Affective Psychopathy Traits Can Enhance Human Fitness. Evolutionary Psychological Science 3, 306–315 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0097-5

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40806-017-0097-5

Keywords

  • Psychopathy
  • Fitness
  • Family risk factors
  • Adaptation
  • Environmental moderation