A Multidimensional View of the Relationship Between Empathy and the Dark Triad

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Abstract

The Dark Triad traits (i.e., narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism) are linked to individual differences in empathy, but what we know about these connections is limited to unidimensional or bidimensional conceptualizations of empathy and to English-speaking samples. Hence, we replicated and extended previous research by applying a multidimensional measure of empathy to the study of how empathy is linked to the Dark Triad in a German sample (N = 516). By doing so, we provided more detail about the way the Dark Triad traits are linked to individual differences in empathy in a unique sample. Narcissism was linked to empathy skills whereas psychopathy was linked to empathy deficits. The Dark Triad traits were stronger in men than in women, while women showed more empathic abilities. The sex differences in the Dark Triad traits were mediated by empathy. We also showed that the paths to empathy in the sexes differ in terms of quantity and quality. We discuss our results from an evolutionary perspective.

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