People with dark personality traits have more malevolent creativity, study

Darkness within!

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Traditionally, creativity has been viewed as a purely bright ability that improves people’s lives. It is the ability to produce novel and useful work. However, it has a dark side, namely, malevolent creativity (MC), which refers to intentionally causing damage in novel ways.

Malevolent creativity (MC) is connected with the Dark Triad on a trait level. However, its exact mechanism is still unknown. The objective of the current study was to investigate the internal mechanism between the Dark Triad and malevolent creativity behavioral tendencies/performance based on the cognitive-affective processing system theory and previous research.

The results revealed that the Dark Triad is positively related to malevolent creativity behavioral tendencies through trait aggression and general creativity behavioral tendencies. It revealed that people with more pronounced dark personality traits tend to have more malevolent creativity.

A total of 217 Chinese college participants were recruited in the study. The recruiting poster was sent to the open college WeChat group, and anyone interested in the experiment could sign up through a QR code. Three participants were removed due to incomplete data.

None of the participants had a history of mental or neurological illness. The prior power analysis revealed that the sufficient sample size was 166 to obtain reliable results, indicating that the current sample size met the criterion.

Upon arrival, each participant was required to sit in front of a table and instructed to complete the demographic questions. Before performing the task, participants were explicitly informed that all situations were fictitious in this experiment and that malevolent ideas generated in this experiment were not related to their personality or level of morality.

After completing the experiment, participants were asked whether they were all right (none claimed to feel unwell). Besides this, participants were also informed that psychological consultation was available and free for them if they needed it.

The results showed that the Dark Triad was significantly correlated with general creativity and malevolent creativity behavioral tendencies. Moreover, the correlation coefficient between the Dark Triad and MC behavioral tendencies was higher than that between the Dark Triad and general creative behavioral tendencies. The results further revealed that the Dark Triad was related to malevolent creative behavioral tendencies through aggression and general creative behavioral tendencies.

Malevolent creativity is ‘eviler’ than general creativity due to its core feature of causing deliberate damage, which means malevolent creativity is closer to an ‘evil trait’ such as the Dark Triad. Besides this, this result may suggest that individuals with higher Dark Triad not only tend to be more creative but also may have an increased tendency to perform malevolent creativity.

This result may suggest that the Dark Triad stimulates general creativity and continues to foster the potential to design original evil plans. Taken together, the Dark Triad allows individuals to be more aggressive and creative so that it is easier to generate both malevolent and novel ideas, which further cultivates malevolent creative behavioral tendencies.

The Dark Triad refers to self-centeredness, manipulation, and callousness. These ‘evil’ features are bonded to the potential for malevolent creation, which is a possible explanation for the positive correlation between the Dark Triad and malevolent creative behavioral tendencies.

The study suggests that individuals with higher levels of Dark Triad personality traits tend to have higher aggression and general creativity behavioral tendencies, which further cultivate their malevolent creativity behavioral tendencies. At the behavioral level, malevolent creativity behavioral tendencies may be closer to the originality than the harmfulness of malevolent ideation. Harmfulness may be more closely related to other factors, such as dehumanization and high neuroticism.

Study authors noted, “Regarding malevolent creativity performance, the Dark Triad is positively related to the originality of malevolent ideas through malevolent creativity behavioral tendencies, but this effect is only significant at low-to-medium levels of moral identity. In line with moral identity theory, a higher moral identity may prevent individuals from acting immorally due to their desire to maintain their moral image, which may further suppress malevolent idea generation. Therefore, cultivating moral identity may be an effective approach to weaken the Dark Triad–MC performance association.”

Journal Reference:

  1. Zhenni Gao et al. Darkness within: The Internal Mechanism between Dark Triad and Malevolent Creativity. Journal of Intelligence. DOI: 10.3390/jintelligence10040119
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