Insight and the Dark Triad: Comparing Self- and Meta-perceptions in Relation to Psychopathy, Narcissism, and Machiavellianism

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The “Dark Triad” consists of 3 partially overlapping trait configurations that manifest in problematic interpersonal outcomes: narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism. Comparing meta-perception-based reports of personality, or how people believe others see them, to self-reports in relation to informant-reports allows for a direct test of the extent to which people are accurate in understanding how they are perceived by others. The present study (n = 993 target participants) investigated how Dark Triad personality styles are viewed from multiple perspectives, including self-report, meta-perception, informant-report (n = 213), and informant perceived meta-perception (n = 178) in an undergraduate sample. Absolute level differences were investigated; self-report ratings were associated with significantly more Machiavellianism and less narcissism than both informant-reports and meta-perceptions. The relative convergence between meta-perceptions and informant-reports was moderate, and similar to the convergence between self-reports and informant-reports. Multiple regression analyses in which self-reports and meta-perceptions predicted informant-reports identified several significant differences, with meta-perceptions more frequently emerging as a stronger predictor of informant-reports. These findings suggest that while self-reports and meta-perceptions are closely related, the latter perspective provides some incremental validity with regard to the constructs that comprise the Dark Triad.

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