The researchers found that heightened interpersonal and affective psychopathic traits were positively associated with social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism, which in turn were linked to increased anti-immigrant attitudes towards Middle-Eastern refugees and distrust of minorities.
“The findings of the study suggest that psychopathic traits, particularly the calloused and deceptive traits, are robustly associated with the tendency to prefer a society that keeps marginalized groups low in status and power and are also predictive of the propensity to use aggression towards violators of traditional social norms, both of which are salient predictors of a variety of prejudicial attitudes,” Roy explained to PsyPost.
The findings are line with previous research from Austria, which found people with “dark” personality characteristics — including psychopathic traits — were more likely to vote for a right-wing, anti-immigrant presidential candidate. Roy’s new study also found evidence that psychopathic tendencies were directly tied to prejudicial views.
“Psychopathic traits were still predictive of prejudice towards Middle-Eastern immigrants and distrust of minorities after taking these prejudicial social attitudes into account, indicating pathological personality traits, such as those captured by psychopathy, are predictive of increased tendencies to devalue marginalized groups,” Roy said.
Impulsive lifestyle traits, however, were associated with lower levels of prejudicial views, which is “in line with conceptualizations of explicit prejudice as a stable characteristic,” the researchers said. “A major caveat is that the study was conducted with young adults so further research in populations clinically elevated in psychopathy (i.e., offenders) is warranted.
Additionally, the current study mainly used self-report measures for both personality and prejudice so future studies using different assessment methods like clinical ratings and behavioral tasks indexing prejudice can certainly help further our understanding of these associations,” Roy noted.
“I believe the field of clinical psychology has acknowledged that the experience of prejudice can be a source of substantial distress for those impacted by it. However, very little attention has been given by our field to understanding the underlying traits of those predisposed to hold these negative beliefs,” the researcher added.