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Subclinical Personality Traits. What are Subclinical Traits?. Personality scales used were not designed for detecting abnormal behavior by normal individuals (Hogan & Hogan, 2001) “Big Five” personality scales: e.g. NEO-PI, HPI, BFI

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what are subclinical traits
What are Subclinical Traits?
  • Personality scales used were not designed for detecting abnormal behavior by normal individuals(Hogan & Hogan, 2001)
  • “Big Five” personality scales:
    • e.g. NEO-PI, HPI, BFI
    • Developed using normal populations in order to predict normal behaviours  the “Bright Side”
  • Clinical scales:
    • e.g. MMPI, PROFILE
    • Developed using abnormal populations in order to predict consistently abnormal functioning

Abnormal Normal

Level of Functioning

What’s Being Assessed

Normal – Factor 5


Variance Explained

subclinical personality traits the theory
Subclinical Personality Traits: The Theory
  • Assessment tools needed that are designed specifically to predict deviant behaviours committed by otherwise normal individuals
  • Subclinical traits:
    • Usually derived from clinical scales
    • Designed to assess personality “quirks” in the normal population
    • Predict occasional maladaptive functioning

 the “Dark Side”



Where do Subclinicals fit in?

Normal – Factor 5


Variance Explained

Abnormal Normal

Level of Functioning

subclinical traits in practice
Subclinical Traits in Practice
  • A wide variety of subclinical traits
    • Hogan’s HDS based on Axis 2 disorders in DSM-IV
      • Antisocial Personality Disorder => Mischievous
      • Borderline Personality Disorder => Excitable
      • Paranoid Personality Disorder => Skeptical
      • Narcissistic Personality Disorder => Bold
      • Dependent Personality Disorder => Dutiful
  • More typically use the Dark Triad:
    • Narcissism
    • MachiavellianismDark Triad
    • Psychopathy
measuring the dark triad
Measuring the Dark Triad
  • Machiavellianism: 20-item Mach-IV scale

(Christie & Geis, 1970)

- Affective Detachment, Intact Reality Contact, & Manipulativeness(McHoskey, Worzel, & Szarto, 1998)

- Low Agreeableness, Low Conscientiousness(Paulhus & Williams, 2002)

  • Narcissism: 37-item Abridged Narcissistic Personality Inventory (ANPI) (Emmons, 1984)

- Grandiosity, Entitlement, Dominance, & Superiority(Morf & Rhodewalt, 2001)

- Low Agreeableness, High Extraversion, & High Openness to Experience (Paulhus & Williams, 2002)

  • Psychopathy: 31-item Self-Report Psychopathy (SRP-2) scale(Hare, 1985)

- Unemotionality, Impulsivity, & Grandiosity(Anderson, Gustafson, Kerr, & Stattin, 2002)

- High Extraversion, High Openness to Experience, Low Neuroticism, Low Agreeableness & Low Conscientiousness (Paulhus & Williams, 2002)

problem with dark triad
Problem with Dark Triad
  • Each of the Dark Triad are considered multi-faceted constructs
  • High intercorrelations between the Dark Triad constructs
    • Need to be teased apart
  • Factor-analyses of adjectives used to describe each of the types performed simultaneously

The Evil Eight

  • Subscales derived from means of items loading >.30 on a factor
  • Vain: 6 items, e.g. sexy,attractive,fashionable (α = .78)
  • Misanthropy: 12 items, e.g. vindictive,scheming,disdainful (α = .81)
  • Impulsive: 9 items, e.g. experimenting,rebellious,impulsive (α = .77)
  • Non-anxious: 5 items, e.g. nervous,guilty,worrisome (α = .69)
  • Arrogant: 4 items, e.g. humble,modest,arrogant (α = .64)
  • Dominant: 11 items, e.g. dominant,aggressive,persuasive (α = .84)
  • Immoral: 4 items, e.g. moral, ethical, idealistic (α = .60)
  • Dishonest: 6 items, e.g. honest, dishonest, honorable (α = .76)

How do the Evil Eight Relate?

  • Subscales were correlated with each other and with original source scales to investigate whether to combine them back into higher-order factors

Mini-ME Scales







Matching Patterns: Within Dark Triad

Original Scales








Matching Patterns: Normal Personality Traits

  • Dark personality scales correlated with IPC-7 (Almagor, Tellegen, & Waller, 1995)
    • Big 5 with two evaluative dimensions
impact of dark personality on reputation
Impact of Dark Personality on Reputation
  • Sampled at Univ. Illinois fraternities and sororities
  • Self-report and Peer-reports on Mini-ME for each member
  • Social Network Analysis: Each member rated every other member of the organization on three dimensions
    • How well do you know this person?
    • How well do you like this person?
    • How much influence does this person have?

Correlations of Social Reputation

Correlations on left are for self-ratings. Correlations on right are for peer-ratings

Machiavellians in Other Studies:
    • Highly successful in contexts where short-term gains are important and getting caught doesn’t have long-term consequences
    • More likely to steal
    • Better at lying(keep straight face and control emotions)
    • Cheat in relationships
    • 10 Dollar Game:
      • 3 individuals: high, medium, & low machs
      • “Divide 10 between 2 of you” over 7 trials
      • Average outcome: High = $5.57

Medium = $3.14

Low= $1.29

Narcissists in Other Studies:
    • Highly successful in short-term contexts where people are not able to evaluate exaggerated claims made about self, abilities, and history
    • Self-nominate for leadership positions
    • Typically have many, short-term romantic relationships
      • Women prefer jerks hypothesis
    • React to negative performance evaluations very poorly
Narcissists in Other Studies:
    • Interview experiment:
      • Narcissists taped during job interview
      • Asked to rate performance in job interview
      • Narcs rated themselves more highly after reviewing tapes
    • T-shirt experiment:
      • Narcs prefer attention far more than others
    • Aggression experiment:
      • Narcs more aggressive
      • Extreme narcs want even negative attention
  • Def: - general inability to fully experience emotions, primarily anxiety
  • Syndrome (pattern of characteristics):
    • superficially charming
    • dishonest
    • unemotional, callous
    • norm-breakers
    • impulsive
  • Appearance:
    • Multiple tattoos
    • Multiple piercing
  • Problems:
    • perform extreme acts in order to feel anything
    • Repeated history of violent, anti-social acts (e.g. childhood pets)
psychopath experiments
Psychopath Experiments
  • Experiment: Unemotional, Callous
    • Participants from welfare roles and prison populations
    • Presented with real and nonsense words and asked to make a decision if real or not
      • (eg. “table”, “butter”, “maim”, “kill”)
    • Measured for the amount of time to process
  • Results:
    • Normals show decreases in processing speed for emotionally charged words
    • Psychopaths show no difference in processing speed
psychopath experiments24
Psychopath Experiments
  • Experiment: Dishonest
    • Participants were Intro. Psych. students
    • Filled out personality questionnaires at beginning of semester
    • Seating positions secretly recorded
    • Computer program used to catch cheaters
  • Results:
    • three pairs of cheaters
    • all cheaters showed high scores for psychopathy
subclinicals wrap up
Subclinicals: Wrap-up
  • It is true that subclinicals (and clinical) may relate to Big Five personality traits and may be easily mapped onto them
  • However, as a syndrome (pattern of traits), they may represent a specific flavor that is not easily detected or described with the Big Five