A new study suggests that individuals with high levels of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellism lack the ability to feel impaired empathy.
Still, these individuals with high levels of psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellism – known as the "black triad" of personality traits – are not inclined to use this ability, according to the new scientific article. published at the end of November at Personality and Individual Differences.
Petri Kajonius, author of the article and professor at University West, Sweden, said that "there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about" normal "psychopaths." "Sometimes psychopaths (people with dark traits) are seen as insensitive people, not being able to sympathize with others, while other people are viewed as fully functional in this sense, they simply don't care."
To dispel these misunderstandings, the research team conducted a study in which 278 people participated. The scientists observed that the dark personality traits were negatively related to their willingness to sympathize – that is, they had nothing to do with this ability.
People who scored high on some of the characteristics of the "black triad" tend to agree with statements such as "other people's misfortunes usually don't bother me much."
However, the “black triad” traits were not related to the scores of the Multifaceted Empathy Test, in which participants observed photographs of people expressing different emotions. In this test, participants had to identify what feeling the person in the image was expressing.
"The results show that, predominantly, people with dark traits do not lack empathy, but have a low willingness to do so," concluded Kajonius, quoted by PsyPost.
In other words, the psychopaths or narcissists of the population – that is, nonclinics – do not care about other people's feelings, but have the ability to sympathize with them.
Still, this study has some limitations. “The results do not tell us about clinical specimens (people diagnosed with psychopathy or narcissism). These people may not even have the ability to empathize. In addition, the study is based on a rather small sample, ”said Kajonius.