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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?

  • 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

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Abnormal Normal

Level of Functioning

What’s Being Assessed

Normal – Factor 5


Variance Explained

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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”

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Where do Subclinicals fit in?

Normal – Factor 5


Variance Explained

Abnormal Normal

Level of Functioning

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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

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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)

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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

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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)

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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

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Mini-ME Scales







Matching Patterns: Within Dark Triad

Original Scales







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Matching Patterns: Normal Personality Traits

  • Dark personality scales correlated with IPC-7 (Almagor, Tellegen, & Waller, 1995)

    • Big 5 with two evaluative dimensions

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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?

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Correlations of Social Reputation

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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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)

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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

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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

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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