The Effects of Dark Triad Personality Traits and Emotional Empathy on Moral Judgment

Ana Rožić, Domagoj Švegar, Igor Kardum


Classic sacrificial moral dilemmas, in which it is necessary to sacrifice a life of one person in order to save several other lives, are often defined by the conflict between the rational response of maximizing aggregate welfare (utilitarian moral judgment) and emotional aversion to harm (deontological moral judgment). Recent research in moral judgment shows that socially aversive personality styles are associated with utilitarian response to moral dilemmas. The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between the Dark Triad personality traits and moral judgment, as well as the mediation effect of emotional empathy on that relationship. Two hundred and ten people participated in the study, aged 18-68 years (147 women and 63 men). The results showed that higher psychopathy and higher Machiavellianism are associated with greater endorsement of utilitarian judgment. We found no association between narcissism and moral judgment. Women scored higher on emotional empathy, and men on psychopathy and had higher endorsement of utilitarian judgment. Higher emotional empathy is associated with lower narcissism, lower Machiavellianism and lower psychopathy as well as lower utilitarian judgment. Lower emotional empathy is a significant mediator of the relationship between Machiavellianism and psychopathy and greater endorsement of utilitarian judgment. The effects of the Dark Triad personality traits and emotional empathy on judgment are discussed.


Dark Triad personality traits; emotional empathy; moral judgment; sacrificial moral dilemmas


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