Friday, November 18, 2022

Meta-analysis: Psychopaths do not achieve larger gains in social economic decision-making games – unless their opponents lack the option to retaliate

Social Economic Decision-Making and Psychopathy: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Gunschera, L. J., Brazil I. A. and Driessen, J. M. A. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, November 18 2022, 104966.


• Psychopathy is associated with reduced cooperation

• Psychopathy is associated with smaller offering behaviour

• No support for link of psychopathy with higher total gains

• Adaptiveness of psychopathic traits is dependent on context

• Advanced approaches enable examination of more refined motivations

Abstract: Psychopathy is a personality construct that encompasses a constellation of traits reflecting emotional dysfunction and antisocial behavior. This constellation has consistently been linked to poor decision-making, often focused on personal and monetary gains at the others’ expense. However, there remains a lack of a systematic examination of how psychopathy is related to the prospect of obtaining monetary gains as a function of social context. Therefore, we conducted a series of meta-analyses to elucidate these relationships. Our findings indicated that elevated levels of psychopathy are related to a reduced tendency to cooperate with others, and no difference in the extent to which knowledge of others’ retaliation possibilities informs decision-making. However, the type of social economic decision-making game employed moderated the association between psychopathic traits and total gain obtained, suggesting that context plays a key role in moderating the link between psychopathic features and decision-making. These findings advance our understanding of psychopathy and open new avenues for research on adaptive and maladaptive social behavior in individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits.

Keywords: psychopathycooperationdecision-makingantisocial behaviorneuroeconomics

4. Discussion

The present meta-analysis shows that increased levels of psychopathic traits are associated with less cooperative behavior and lower offers across social economic decision-making paradigms. Moreover, our findings suggest that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits ignore the potential retaliative acts of opponents in their behavioral choices challenge. Finally, these individuals obtain higher gains in games where opponents lack the option to retaliate, compared to reciprocal games. In the following sections we will discuss these findings in more detail.

4.1. Cooperation

The results indicated that increasing levels of psychopathic traits co-occurred with reduced cooperation across social economic decision-making contexts. The manifestation of uncooperative behavior varies across paradigms. In a Trust Game, for instance, defection takes the form of lower reciprocal actions when offered the opportunity to reward the investor for their investment. In contrast, defection in an Ultimatum or Dictator Game relates to the individual’s posed offers. The finding that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits are inclined to behave less cooperative across a range of social economic decision-making contexts aligns with our primary hypothesis and emphasizes the interpersonal component of psychopathic traits. More generally, the finding supports contemporary theories of psychopathy which postulate that psychopathy encompasses interpersonal deficits and antisocial tendencies. Yet, these theories insinuate different motivations for reduced cooperative behavior.

Prevailing theories of psychopathy tend to emphasize affective deficits. One prominent account is Lykken’s low-fear hypothesis, which suggests that psychopathy is underpinned by an impairment of fear processing (Lykken, 1957Lykken, 1995). Psychopathic individuals are thought to experience the emotion of fear to a lesser extent. Hypothesized mechanisms underlying this lack of fear are deficits in passive avoidance learning (i.e., learning to avoid an aversive stimulus by inhibiting a previously punished response) and fear conditioning (i.e., learning to associate a particular neutral stimulus with an aversive stimulus) (Birbaumer et al., 2005; R. J. R. Blair et al., 2004Oba et al., 2019Veit et al., 2013). Punishing responses are inherent to learning appropriate behavior in social situations, and many parenting methods rely on punishment of undesirable behaviors. Consequently, individuals scoring high on psychopathic traits may be more inclined to engage in deviant behaviors due to the lack of fear associated with undesirable outcomes. Since noncooperative behavior tends to yield the highest reward for the individual, there are few reasons not to act in socially deviant manners if fear of social or monetary punishment is disregarded.

In contrast to previously discussed emotion-focused theories, attention-based models suggest broad and nonspecific attention deficits to underpin psychopathy. The Response Modulation Hypothesis (RMH; Gorenstein & Newman, 1980Newman & Baskin-Sommers, 2016) concerns individuals’ ability to modulate a dominant response set in the presence of nondominant response cues. Psychopathic individuals are thought to focus on immediate, motivationally salient cues while disregarding peripheral information. The attentional bottleneck model (Baskin-Sommers & Brazil, 2022) elaborates on the underlying mechanism, suggesting an exaggerated attention bottleneck that restricts parallel processing of peripheral cues. Such an overactive attention bottleneck in psychopathy filters out too much information and forces serial processing instead. Evidence in favor of the attentional bottleneck comes from studies investigating information processing in dual-task conditions. These studies showed that psychopathy-related deficits are most apparent in tasks that required participants to learn and track multiple sets or types of contingencies (e.g., Brazil et al., 2013; Von Borries et al., 2010Newman & Kosson, 1986). It has been demonstrated that increasing levels of psychopathic traits are associated with reduced interference to response incongruent information when this information is presented outside the focus of attention (Scheeff et al., 2021Zeier and Newman, 2013). Regarding cooperation, the attention-based models of psychopathy suggest that a disregard of contextual information, as a consequence of an exaggerated attention bottleneck, explains the negative relationship between psychopathic traits and cooperation. For instance, when in pursuit of monetary reward, individuals with elevated levels of psychopathy may be less likely to incorporate affective cues of the social interaction in their decision-making. This is limited to instances where cooperation cues remain outside the central focus of attention. As such, one may expect these individuals to consider contextual social cues when amply encouraged to do so.

Taken together, conceptualizations of psychopathy tend to converge in their predictions on cooperative behavior, while their proposed underlying motivations diverge. To effectively differentiate between said theories, we need to address the boundary conditions of the suggested deficits. For instance, absence of fear-related deficits when fear-related cues are the focus of attention challenge contemporary affective theories of psychopathy (Lykken, 1995Newman et al., 2010). Instead, it is important to consider the situational specificity of dysfunctions associated with psychopathy, something that has become clear from researchers extending upon overly simplistic social economic decision-making studies in recent years and considering variables that go beyond the binary cooperation-defection distinction (e.g., Driessen et al., 2021Gong et al., 2019Osumi & Ohira, 2017Testori et al., 2019). Throughout the following paragraph we will address the moderating variables of interest to the relationship of psychopathic traits and cooperation.

Our findings indicated that the negative relationship between psychopathic traits and cooperation is not moderated by any of the included moderators. Whereas scholars have suggested that the behavior that is associated with F1 and F2 subtypes may be driven by different motivations (Karpman, 1941Mealey, 1995), our findings indicated no moderating effect of factor on the observed association of psychopathy and cooperation. Our analysis of the factor structure is limited as aggregate findings of studies using a wide range of psychopathy measures, only some of which strictly adhere to the F1/F2 distinction. The PPI F1, for instance, incorporates adaptive aspects. whereas F1 of the PCL-R is strictly limited to maladaptive characteristics of the disorder (Benning et al., 2003Miller and Lynam, 2012). While findings seem to indicate that primary and secondary psychopathy are associated with the F1/F2 distinction (Levenson et al., 1995), future studies may analyze a more homogenous sample of psychopathy measures or look for an interaction between the psychopathy scales and their factor structures (Malterer et al., 2010Poythress et al., 2010).

Two additional moderators pertain to the measurements used to assess psychopathic traits levels. The clinical utility and factor structure of the different psychopathy measures have been compared extensively (Cooke and Michie, 2001Drislane et al., 2014Fl√≥rez et al., 2020Hare, 1985Hare, 1996Hare, 2003; Hare & Neumann, 2006; Tsang et al., 2018), but there is little insight as to the relevance of these differences for cooperative behavior. Our findings suggest that differences in psychopathy measures do not differentially account for the relationship between psychopathy and cooperation and conflicts with the limited evidence of psychopathy measures contributing to differences in findings of cooperation in psychopathic individuals (Rilling et al., 2007). We observed the same null effect for the moderator splitting psychopathy scales into those neglecting and those incorporating positive aspects of psychopathy. This finding goes against the notion that scales incorporating positive aspects of psychopathy may do better at accounting for positive behavioral outcomes, such as cooperation.

At last, our analysis revealed no significant differences in the association of psychopathic traits and cooperative behavior in the Ultimatum and the Dictator game. The non-significant moderating effect of game suggests that individuals with elevated psychopathic traits tend to disregard important differences between paradigms in their pursuit to obtain valuable outcomes. Individuals low on psychopathic traits are thought to incorporate the knowledge of potential retaliative actions in their decision-making. As such, paradigms where participants may be punished motivate cooperative behavior. The finding that individuals with elevated psychopathic traits tend not to incorporate that knowledge can be explained by affective and cognitive accounts of psychopathy. The former may argue that a lower experience of fear alters motivational contingencies in individuals with elevated psychopathic traits (Lykken, 1995). Attentional accounts, on the other hand, account for the finding by suggesting that peripheral cues, in this case the affective reactions of the other agent, tend to be disregarded by individuals high on psychopathic traits (R. K. B. Hamilton et al., 2015).

4.2. Offer Size

Results for the analysis of offer sizes in social economic decision-making games indicate a significant negative association with psychopathic traits. As such, individuals with elevated levels of psychopathy tend to propose lower offers. It should be noted that results from the file drawer analyses give reason to question the robustness of the effect and suggest that the effect may be susceptible to publication bias. Therefore, we are cautious with drawing firm conclusions. Our observation aligns with the extant literature documenting violations of social norms and reduced concern for the welfare of others in individuals with psychopathic tendencies (Chang et al., 2011*Gillespie et al., 2013Hare, 1996Hare, 1998Harpur et al., 1989*Mokros et al., 2008). Interestingly, some studies suggested that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits have a different sense of fairness and proposed that this could explain antisocial choices in social economic games (e.g., Driessen et al., 2021Osumi & Ohira, 2010). This notion is supported by findings showing that individuals with elevated levels of psychopathic traits not only pose lower offers but also accepted more unfair offers and perceived unfair offers as being less unfair (*Osumi and Ohira, 2010*Vieira et al., 2014). A first study that investigated the role of fairness considerations in social economic decision-making and compared it with potential other motivations combined a new social economic game with computational modeling and showed that psychopathy was indeed negatively associated with inequity-aversion (Driessen et al., 2021). Competing theories have been suggested as to why psychopathic traits are associated with reduced cooperative and general moral behavior (Chang et al., 2011*Driessen et al., 2021Glenn et al., 2009*Gong et al., 2019van Baar et al., 2020). While our present results fail to differentiate between guilt-aversion and inequity-aversion motives of offering behavior, recent methodological advancements have made it possible to differentiate between distinct moral decision strategies by combining new experimental tasks with computational modeling (*Driessen et al., 2021*Gong et al., 2019van Baar et al., 2019). The approach of computational modelling to the behavioral strategy proves a promising way of discerning between different strategies and obtaining more detailed insight into the motivations for cooperative or defective behavior.

Regarding the moderation analysis, none of the moderators showed a significant effect. The moderator ‘game’ is particularly interesting, as it captures the trade-off between immediate and delayed reward. This follows from the fundamental difference between the UG and DG, the latter of which allows for reciprocal actions of the opponent. As such, individuals can maximize immediate rewards in the DG without sacrificing long-term gains, a strategy that is bound to fail in a UG, where the opponent may punish offers that are perceived to be unfair. Our findings indicate that individuals scoring high on psychopathic traits make small offers in general. This suggests that these individuals do strive for immediate reward and do not, or to a lesser extent, incorporate the potential retaliating acts of the other player in their behavioral choices. A potential explanation for this finding could be that individuals scoring high on psychopathy are not sensitive to the reciprocal nature of the social economic interaction. However, previous studies suggested that these individuals are aware of the social context and understand other’s expectations, but just don’t utilize this knowledge in their social decision-making (e.g., Gong et al., 2019). An alternative explanation for our finding could be that a high sensitivity to reward in these individuals drives risky and antisocial decision-making. Previous studies have suggested that individuals with high levels of psychopathic traits are characterized by a tendency to excessively pursue appetitive stimuli, and proposed that this excessive behavioral activation could be a key component underlying antisocial behavior in these individuals (R. J. R. Blair et al., 2004Buckholtz et al., 2010Foulkes et al., 2014Gorenstein & Newman, 1980Hare, 1972Pujara et al., 2013). This excessive pursuit of rewards may render individuals with psychopathic tendencies less likely to process peripheral information, such as the presence or absence of potential punishment. This could explain the observed absence of differences in offering behaviour across paradigms. Yet, the differences between paradigms imply that similar behavioral choices may yield different outcomes. To address the outcome of social economic decision-making games more directly, we turn toward an examination of the total gains obtained.

4.3. Total gain

The results for the analysis of total gain in social economic decision-making indicated that psychopathic traits are unrelated to the total gain obtained in social economic decision-making games. Yet, our findings lack scope to draw comprehensive conclusions about the adaptive value of particular psychopathic traits (Bronchain et al., 2020Meloy et al., 2018). Whereas our findings preclude conclusions about the sensitivity to reward itself, they are relevant to the efficacy in achieving desired gains. Arguably, one would expect increased effort in obtaining rewards that are highly valued. However, this does not necessarily translate to increased efficacy in obtaining said rewards, and our findings indicate that psychopathic individuals are not more successful at achieving monetary rewards (R. J. R. Blair, 2008Buckholtz et al., 2010Cleckley, 1941Everitt et al., 2008Fowles, 1980Gorenstein & Newman, 1980Lykken, 1957Pujara et al., 2013). However, findings of the moderator analyses demonstrated that the type of game significantly moderated the effect of psychopathy on total gain. More specifically, individuals with elevated levels of psychopathic traits appeared to obtain a higher outcome in games that exclude the possibility of an opponent retaliating on the current or later trials. This is in line with our other finding showing that psychopathic traits are linked to lower offers across all games and provides further insight into the efficacy of such a strategy. Posing a low offer in the Dictator game results in a higher gain, while posing a low offer in the Ultimatum or Prisoner Game increases the risk of retaliation by the opponent and therefore potentially results in a lower gain. Thus, the significant moderator effect of game on the relation between psychopathy and total gain could be explained by the risk of retaliation in the social economic decision-making games. Based on the current findings we could not conclude whether individuals scoring low on psychopathic traits, or community-dwelling individuals in general, do not adapt at all or do adapt to a lesser extent.

The question whether psychopathy scales that incorporate positive aspects of the personality construct are better at accounting for positive outcomes, such as cooperation, was addressed in the moderation analysis. Our findings indicate no significant moderation effect of scales including or discarding positive aspects of psychopathy. However, it is worth noting, that we did observe a negative trend in said moderation. Nevertheless, the moderation did not reach significance, and we conclude that although some scales do incorporate positive aspects of psychopathy, they demonstrate no greater utility at predicting the total gain of psychopathic individuals.

Finally, we should note that the proportion of the variance in study estimates concerning total gain that is due to heterogeneity was high (Deeks, 2011). Accordingly, any interpretation of these results should be taken with care. Several explanations can be devised for this observation. It is possible that total gain in social economic decision-making games vary greatly across the studies. This seems plausible, given that we observe many differences in social economic decision-making paradigms, some of which are more generous in the allocation of rewards, whereas others are more restricted. Alternatively, it is possible that results are biased, and the resulting conclusions are flawed. Whereas we consider the former to be more plausible, the following conclusions should be taken with care and further research into the amount of total gain in social economic decision-making games is warranted (Deeks, 2011).

Overall, the pattern of results indicated that individuals scoring high on psychopathy are less likely to engage in cooperative behavior and have the tendency to pose low offers regardless of the risk of retaliation by the opponent. The latter finding suggests that these individuals fail to consider potential retaliative acts of others. In line with these findings, while there was no overall effect of psychopathy on the total gain, we did find that individuals scoring high on psychopathy are more likely to end up with large gains in games where opponents do not get a chance to retaliate. Taken together, the results demonstrate that the social economic behavior of psychopaths is a result of many interacting factors.

4.4. Quality assessment and limitations

Note, however, that there is substantial heterogeneity amid study findings and the degree to which cooperative behavior can be explained by psychopathic traits is inconsistent between experiments. Another limitation follows from the relatively small set of studies on social economic decision-making of psychopathic individuals. More research is required to separate the effects of psychopathy across different economic games, as well as investigate differences in social economic decision making in clinical and pre-clinical data. These nuanced effects are of great interest and future research may utilize recent methodological developments outlined in the present review.

Our quality assessment showed 81.25% of the included studies to be of moderate quality, with another 12.5% and 6.25% being of good or poor quality, respectively. Several methodological weaknesses were common across all studies and may negatively influence the reliability of observed findings. First, most studies failed to report any form of sample size justification. Said ad-hoc justifications relate to the probability of correctly rejecting a null hypothesis, given a particular effect size, alpha level, and sample size (Tressoldi, 2012). Failure to consider these factors can result in inflated type one error rates, incidences where the null hypothesis is incorrectly rejected. Considering that the importance of power analyses has been stressed for over half a decade, it is troubling to see it being disregarded in many of the included papers (Cohen, 1969Cohen, 1992). Another frequent issue are missing specifications of exclusion criteria. Exclusion criteria allow for judgments of external validity and comparisons of samples across studies. Moreover, it has been suggested that more theory-driven exclusion criteria are needed to solve the false-positive problem in psychopathy (Rosenberg Larsen, 2018). Although the mere specification of exclusion criteria in itself does not equate more theory-driven decisions, it is a move in the right direction and allows for comparisons across studies. In the present analysis, frequent failure to report exclusion criteria generally reduces the quality of observed evidence and may have contributed to the high rates of heterogeneity that we have observed across studies (Patino & Ferreira, 2018).

4.5. General Summary and Discussion

Marked interpersonal deficits are considered fundamental to the construct psychopathy. Several studies have documented the social behavior in relation to psychopathic traits across a variety of social economic decision-making games and aimed to obtain insight into the drives and motivations of social behavior of individuals who demonstrate elevated psychopathic traits. The present meta-analysis offers the first comprehensive review of psychopaths’ choice behavior in social economic games. In doing so, we were able to incorporate a larger variety of factors that are relevant to the social economic choices of individuals and allow for more meaningful assessments of behavior and behavioral motives. Our findings demonstrated that elevated psychopathic traits are associated with less cooperative behavior and lower offers across social economic paradigms. Both effects are reflected in our contemporary understanding of psychopathy as being characterized by marked social deficits and disregard for others. Moreover, our findings suggest that psychopathic individuals ignore the potential retaliative acts of opponents in their behavioral choices challenge. This might be explained by their engagement in risky decision-making to obtain a high reward. At last, our findings concerning the gains in social economic decision-making games indicate that, overall, individuals with elevated psychopathic traits are no better at obtaining them. However, when we make a distinction based on the type of game, our findings demonstrate that individuals scoring high on psychopathy obtain higher gains in games where opponents lack the option to retaliate. Taken together, we could argue that the risky and antisocial strategy adopted by individuals scoring high on psychopathic traits is successful in situations where one has full control over the outcome, but not in situations where reciprocity plays a role. Thus, as psychopathic traits turn out to benefit the level of success only in certain situations, our findings challenge the idea of successful psychopathy (Lasko and Chester, 2021Palmen et al., 2018Persson and Lilienfeld, 2019). Our findings summarize existing research on social economic decision-making in psychopathy and supports the idea that personality traits have substantial predictive power in the field of economics and can help us better understand economic behavior across strategic contexts (Borghans et al., 2008Engelmann et al., 2019). It further demonstrates directions for future research, which should devote attention to more refined behavioral drives and consider the complexity of social economic environments.

Competing theories have been suggested as to why psychopathic traits are associated with reduced cooperative behavior in social economic contexts (Chang et al., 2011*Driessen et al., 2021Glenn et al., 2009*Gong et al., 2019van Baar et al., 2020). One prominent line of thinking incorporates the idea that people typically generate beliefs about what others expect from us and suggests that people are motivated to cooperate to avoid feelings of guilt for not living up to another’s expectations. Studies showed that psychopathy is negatively associated with such a guilt-averse motivation (K. S. Blair et al., 2006; Cleckley, 1964; Seara-Cardoso et al., 2016Gong et al., 2019). An alternative theory proposes that fairness considerations motivate cooperative behavior in humans. According to this theory, people value the equity in outcome between themselves and another person and are often willing to sacrifice some of their own payout to ensure more equitable outcomes with others. Studies on the role of fairness considerations during social economic decision-making in psychopathy have yielded mixed results. Until recently, there were no direct comparisons between these two hypotheses as traditional social economic decision-making paradigms do not allow us to differentiate between guilt and fairness considerations. That is, the two motivations typically result in similar behavioral patterns in such paradigms. However, there have been some promising developments in this direction and studies have gone beyond the general characteristics of social environments to gather insight into the drives and motives of cooperative behavior as a function of psychopathic traits (*Driessen et al., 2021*Gervais et al., 2013*Gong et al., 2019van Baar et al., 2019). Recent methodological advancements have made it possible to differentiate between distinct moral decision strategies by combining new experimental tasks with computational modeling (*Driessen et al., 2021*Gong et al., 2019van Baar et al., 2019). The approach of computational modelling to the behavioral strategy proves a promising way of discerning between different strategies and obtaining more detailed insight into the motivations for cooperative or defective behavior.

Following the same trend of increasing the specificity at which different strategies can be detected, different approaches have been utilized to discern reward learning from social decision-making (e.g., Martins et al., 2022Sul et al., 2015). Sul and colleagues (2015) developed a new instrumental learning task (i.e., prosocial learning task) that helps disentangle prosocial from self-oriented learning. By splitting participants in conditions where obtaining points would benefit the self or another individual, the researchers were able to investigate individual differences in prosociality specifically. Several studies have demonstrated that self- and other-regarding choices are critically involved in determining prosocial behavior (Cutler et al., 2021Lockwood et al., 2017Piva et al., 2019Sul et al., 2015). These findings emphasize the importance of adopting more rigorous scientific methods in order to better understand human decision-making.

It is important to acknowledge a potential limitation when considering the results of the present review. The studies included differed in samples (forensic vs. non-forensic), conceptualization of the construct of psychopathy, and used social economic decision-making games. In general, social economic decision-making games are designed to resemble real-life behavior in social situations. Therefore, it is essential that individuals believe in the legitimacy of these interactions and attach value to the potential outcomes, both social and economic. Hypothetical scenarios lack the consequences for actual social and economic outcomes that real social economic decisions have. Therefore, an expected increase in social desirability may cause an inflation in effect sizes of studies using hypothetical rather than behavior-contingent designs (Moshagen et al., 2011Thielmann et al., 2016). Games during which participants are aware that their decisions will not influence their monetary payout encourage a shift toward more cooperative behavior as it comes at no actual cost to the individual. This effect is even stronger for selfish individuals (e.g., Hilbig et al., 2015). Therefore, under the assumption that psychopathic individuals tend to cooperate less across social economic decision-making games, it may be reasonable to assume that hypothetical games diminish the negative association and lead to a decline in observed effect sizes. The same is true for studies where participants are not made aware of the hypothetical nature of the task. The extent to which experimenters manage to convince participants of the legitimacy of the social economic interaction may similarly affect the willingness to cooperate. Nevertheless, Thielmann et al. (2020) concluded that perception does not confound the results on personality and prosocial behavior, reporting merely a small effect of deception on study outcomes. Accordingly, this limitation does not necessarily warrant concern, considering that a small minority of participants was aware of the hypothetical nature.

4.6. Conclusion

The current study presents meta-analytical findings concerning the relationship of psychopathic traits and social economic decision-making. The results show that psychopathy is associated with reduced cooperative behavior across social economic decision-making paradigms, while such behavior leads to high gains only in situations that do not require reciprocal interactions. While these findings improve our understanding of how variations in psychopathy scores are linked to the ability to adapt to task characteristics, we also emphasize the need for studies that go beyond the general characteristics of social environments to gather insight into the underlying motivations of cooperative behavior as a function of psychopathic traits.

Particularly in women, the Dark Tetrad facets were associated with social media use

Social media use and personality: Beyond self-reports and trait-level assessments. Lennart Freyth, Bernad Batinic, Peter K. Jonason. Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 202, February 2023, 111960.


• Narcissistic and Machiavellian facets correlated with Instagram use intensity.

• The HEXACO models showed (almost) no links to objective social media usage.

• Particularly in women, the Dark Tetrad facets were associated with social media use.

Abstract: We investigated how objective, behavioral data on social media use was correlated with the Dark Tetrad facets and the HEXACO traits. We tracked usage time and usage session of social media users (N = 243), considering Instagram to be a visual social medium compared to Facebook and, therefore, to be related to “dark” personality characteristics (i.e., short-term mating, antisocial attitudes). Additional to bivariate correlations, we controlled the Dark Tetrad facets for the HEXACO model and vice versa using partialed correlations, and found that agentic extraversion, self-entered antagonism, and Machiavellian tactics, but not the HEXACO traits, were correlated with Instagram usage time and sessions. We observed no personality correlations with Facebook use. In women, more facets were associated with Instagram use, while in men only boldness was linked to it. We discuss the findings in the light of short-term mating and antisocial behavior on social media (e.g., niche specialization, cyberstalking). Disentangling the Dark Tetrad traits helped refine previous findings.

Keywords: Dark tetradHEXACOInstagramSocial mediaBehavioral dataFacets

3. Discussion

Previous research on personality and social media use has at least two shortcomings. It relied mainly on self-reported data of social media use and analyzed either the Dark Triad traits or the Big Five traits, which made it hard to uncover exact associations and to compare both. Thus, we correlated behavioral data of the two largest social networks—Instagram and Facebook—with the Dark Tetrad facets and the HEXACO traits instead of the Dark Triad and the Big Five traits to refine previous research.

In general, the Dark Tetrad facets—but not the HEXACO traits—were associated with Instagram use. Whereas both taxonomies were almost completely uncorrelated with Facebook use. These findings were underlined by the partialed correlations, confirming H1 partially (i.e., agentic extraversion, neurotic narcissism; H1a for time but not for sessions) and H2 (i.e., Machiavellian tactics), but not H3 (i.e., meanness, disinhibition) and H4 (i.e., indirect sadism). We observed a different pattern among women in whom numerous dark facets showed stronger associations with Instagram usage time and particularly sessions-confirming H1bH2H3b, and H4 only for women, whereas only bold men used Instagram longer and more frequently. This supports the difference of Instagram of a highly visual social media app (Marengo et al., 2018) when compared to Facebook, which developed into a general platform with different interactions and more text-based interactions. Indicating, the link between Instagram use and the Dark Tetrad facets supports the assumption of using mating tactics on visual social media such as Instagram but not on Facebook. Interestingly, we could not identify an overall link between disinhibition and Instagram usage time or sessions (rejecting H3, limiting H3b to women). Probably our outcome markers did not match with previous ones, or objective Instagram data did not match the concrete behavior (e.g., phubbing; Grieve & March, 2021). What we could find was a relationship between Instagram use and indirect sadism, but only in women. This might be a consequence of antisocial online behaviors (Moor & Anderson, 2019), or-more specific-a result of intimate partner cyberstalking, a mating strategy to avoid mating mistakes (March, Szymczak, Di Rago, & Jonason, 2022).

Relationships between personality and social media usage intensity were almost completely limited to the Dark Tetrad facets. Probably, because high-scoring individuals are looking for mating purposes online (Fox & Rooney, 2015) and prefer the environment because of more possible mating success there (i.e., better fitness pay-offs, niche specialization; Penke & Jokela, 2016). Remarkable, exploitative, callous men (i.e., meanness; Jonason et al., 2009) spend less time online, while mild (i.e., boldness) psychopathic tactics (Jonason et al., 2014) are associated with more time spent and sessions on Instagram. Along with this, highly emotional women, use Instagram for a longer time than men, highlighting potential tactics used in this visual social media. Noteworthy, several facets were only linked to increased usage in women (e.g., self-centered antagonism), a finding that could be interpreted as mating tactics in modern, liberal societies with smaller sex differences. Particularly as we provide a German and not Anglo-American sample (Schmitt, 2005). Future researchers should investigate if visual social media might provide a safe environment for women to engage in (more) short-term mating (Baranowski & Hecht, 2015). These and general, upcoming challenges for society might emerge as usage time increases (Hodes & Thomas, 2021).

3.1. Limitations and conclusions

Despite our use of a tracked sample of sufficient size, our study has several limitations. Different Dark Tetrad facets could be chosen, yet we consider the ones picked best for an independent and holistic view of the taxonomy. This way, we could refine results on everyday sadism (Moor & Anderson, 2019), but the link between Instagram usage times and sessions with physical sadism instead of indirect sadism—in women and not in men—needs further investigation. Future research should investigate sex differences in personality and associated objective social media use with larger sample sizes to clarify our observed tendencies. Low internal consistency scores of the HEXACO traits are common among short scales, especially when using heterogeneous items (Rammstedt & Beierlein, 2014) to measure a complex but unidimensional construct or trait (Schmitt, 1996). However, we would suggest using long-versions for further research. Last, we only captured usage intensity objectively, upcoming research should investigate people's concrete behaviors on top and combine them with intensity and personality for analyses. And those studies should use experimental designs.

We show the importance of disentangling the Dark Tetrad traits when trying to understand their role in understanding objective social media use. Visual social media was used more intensely by people high in agentic extraversion, self-centered antagonism, and Machiavellian tactics but not by mean or impulsive individuals. Sex differences were not only observed in personality, but manifested in associated usage, too. While women with high Dark Tetrad facets used Instagram more intensely, only bold men did. The use of Instagram, as a visual social media, differs substantially from Facebook use regarding its users' personality characteristics, potentially for mating purposes on top of solely antisocial online behaviors. The findings are consistent with and sharpen previous research as only the Dark Tetrad traits, not the HEXACO traits, were associated with visual social media use. Like light attracts moths, social media seems to attract antisocial personalities.

Children distributed fewer rewards to high performers who were motivated by the pursuit of profit

The profit motive: Implications for children’s reasoning about merit-based resource distribution. Shuai Shao, Jingrong Huang, Li Zhao, Gail D. Heyman. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, Volume 226, February 2023, 105563.


• Judgments about how to reward high performers were examined among 6- to 11-year-olds.

• Intrinsically-motivated performers were compared to performers motivated by profit.

• Participants distributed less to the high performers who were motived by profit.

• With age, the distributions were increasingly sensitive to the motive information.

• Wariness of individuals who have a profit motive may have its origins in childhood.

Abstract: How to distribute resources in a fair way is a fundamental source of conflict in human societies. A central dilemma that people begin to grapple with during childhood is the extent to which individuals should be rewarded based on merit at the expense of equality. The current study examined children’s reasoning about this dilemma by testing whether they are sensitive to information about the motives of highly productive people when determining whether they should receive extra compensation. Across two studies, children (6- to 11-year-olds, total N = 143) judged high performers to be less deserving of extra resources when they were motivated by profit rather than being intrinsically motivated, and this pattern was more pronounced among the older children. The findings demonstrate that, with age, children increasingly consider motives when deciding whether productivity should be rewarded and that the tendency of adults to view profit motives as problematic has origins during childhood.

Keywords: Profit motiveUlterior motivesIntrinsic motivationExtrinsic motivationResource allocation

General discussion

The current research examined the effects of motives for performance on children’s judgments about the extent to which people should be rewarded based on merit. In addressing this question, we hypothesized that high performers motivated by profit would be seen as less worthy of extra rewards than intrinsically motivated high performers. We found evidence for this systematic tendency by 7 years of age in Study 1, and it was highly robust among 10- and 11-year-olds in both studies. These results show for the first time that information about ulterior motives can have implications for children’s merit-based distribution decisions.

Notably, older children in Study 2 tended to preferentially reward intrinsically motivated high performers over profit-motived high performers even when they had the option to reward both equally. We also found evidence that older children thought that profit-motived high performers should be given no extra rewards at all (Study 2) or even should be penalized (Study 1) relative to typical performers. This provides the first evidence that there may be a profit motive penalty that erases any notion that merit should be rewarded.

Our findings of a profit motive penalty are similar to anti-profit beliefs that have been observed among adults. For example, Bhattacharjee and colleagues (2017) found that profit-seeking businesses were viewed as harmful and immoral even when they were able to bring about salient social benefits. Our results suggest that children showed a similar pattern of reasoning by as young as 7 years, as indicated by the findings of Study 1 in which profit-driven high performers were rewarded less than typical performers despite their higher level of contribution to the class.

Our findings of age-related change are in line with the developmental research showing age-related changes in reasoning about ulterior motives. For example, Heyman and colleagues (2014) found that when judging people’s prosocial behaviors, 8- to 10-year-olds recognized ulterior motives associated with reputational enhancement, but 6- and 7-year-olds did not. Taken together, these findings suggest that children become increasingly sensitive to the implications of a broad range of ulterior motives during middle childhood and that, with age, children increasingly view individuals who hold such motives as both less altruistic and less worthy of being rewarded.

Our findings contribute to research on intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation given that the profit motive is a form of extrinsic motivation. Previous research in this area has mainly focused on the behavioral consequences of extrinsic rewards and motivations (see Deci et al., 1999, for a review). For example, Ulber and colleagues (2016) showed that rewarding children for their prosocial behaviors attenuated their subsequent costly sharing. Good and Shaw (2022) showed that this distinction could also have evaluative implications; by 6 years of age, children showed a preference for an individual who was intrinsically motivated over one who was extrinsically motivated by reputational gain. The current work extends these findings by showing that the negative evaluative implications apply to another type of extrinsic motive—the motive for profit.

The current research also enriches the moral development literature by showing the important role of intentions in judgments and decision making. Previous research has documented that even young infants are sensitive to other agents’ intentions (Geraci et al., 2022Hamlin, 2013Kanakogi et al., 2017Strid and Meristo, 2020). In particular, considerations of helpful or harmful intentions emerge within the first year of life (e.g., helping: Hamlin, 2013; distributing: Geraci et al., 2022). Our results, along with those of Good and Shaw (2022), build on these findings by showing that intentions that have no salient moral valence can also have evaluative implications. Our research is also in line with research showing that intentions, but not outcomes, are central to children’s moral judgments (Cushman et al., 2013Killen et al., 2011).

One critical question that needs further exploration is why children and adults dislike or even penalize profit motives. It is likely that profit motives can signal selfishness and therefore are viewed as incompatible with societal good (Bhattacharjee et al., 2017). This may occur because the negative implications of profit motives are more salient in daily life than the positive implications (Bhattacharjee et al., 2017). In addition, it should be noted that the current research does not distinguish between rewarding high effort versus high productivity, which will be important to examine in future research (Noh et al., 2019).

It is worth noting that the current research was conducted in China. One important question to address in future research is the extent to which our findings are culturally specific versus generalizable. At least some prior findings on children’s resource allocation suggest that there may be cross-cultural differences. For example, a recent study showed that when recipients differed in their productivity, children from more individualistic cultures were more likely to distribute rewards equitably than children from collectivist cultures (Huppert et al., 2019). This may be because collectivist cultures tend to emphasize consideration of what is beneficial to the group (Triandis, 1989). However, it is also possible that there is a greater focus on rewarding individual achievement among children in China than in the West given that Chinese school culture is highly competitive and success is commonly defined in terms of relative achievement (Zhao & Heyman, 2018).

In sum, we examined whether children’s beliefs about rewarding merit-worthy behavior depend on the motive of the individual exhibiting the behavior. We found that children perceive profit-driven high performers to be less deserving of rewards than intrinsically motivated high performers and that, with age, motive information increasingly affects children’s judgments. These findings advance our understanding of deservingness in resource allocation and the development of intention-based judgments and decision making. They also provide evidence that the concerns about profit motives observed in adults have developmental roots and can be understood in terms of intuitive ways of thinking about motives that emerge early in life.

Listening speaks to our intuition while reading promotes analytic thought

Geipel, J., & Keysar, B. (2022). Listening speaks to our intuition while reading promotes analytic thought. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Nov 2022.

Abstract: It is widely assumed that thinking is independent of language modality because an argument is either logically valid or invalid regardless of whether we read or hear it. This is taken for granted in areas such as psychology, medicine, and the law. Contrary to this assumption, we demonstrate that thinking from spoken information leads to more intuitive performance compared with thinking from written information. Consequently, we propose that people think more intuitively in the spoken modality and more analytically in the written modality. This effect was robust in five experiments (N = 1,243), across a wide range of thinking tasks, from simple trivia questions to complex syllogisms, and it generalized across two different languages, English and Chinese. We show that this effect is consistent with neuroscientific findings and propose that modality dependence could result from how language modalities emerge in development and are used over time. This finding sheds new light on the way language influences thought and has important implications for research that relies on linguistic materials and for domains where thinking and reasoning are central such as law, medicine, and business.