Director: Eric R. Dahlen, Ph.D.
The Dark Triad refers to three overlapping but distinct personality traits associated with a variety of antisocial and morally transgressive behaviors: psychopathy, narcissism, and Machiavelianism (Paulhus & Williams, 2002). Considered together, these traits involve emotional coldness, a lack of empathy, the desire for personal advancement at the expense of healthy relationships, grandiosity, and a willingness to manipulate others (Jonason, Lyons, Bethell, & Ross, 2013). Although there are well-known clinical manifestations of psychopathy and narcissism, work on the Dark Triad has emphasized the goal of understanding the subclinical forms of these traits found throughout the population (Furnham, Richards, & Paulhus, 2013). That is, most of the Dark Triad research seeks to understand the dark personalities we encounter in our daily lives.
Psychopathy describes a specific constellation of affective, interpersonal, lifestyle, and behavioral characteristics. These include impulsivity; callous affect; poor reliability in performing various roles; a lack of remorse, empathy, or guilt; and a tendency toward rule violation (Hare, 2003; Jones & Paulhus, 2014). Although psychopathy is associated with criminality and violence (Hare & Neumann, 2009) and is considered to be the most dangerous of the Dark Triad traits, its utility is not restricted to criminal and forensic contexts. For example, subclinical psychopathy predicts a variety of behaviors that are not necessarily criminal (e.g., academic dishonesty, relational aggression, cyber aggression, substance misuse) but still likely to be of interest (Kokkinos, Antoniadou, & Markos, 2014; Williams, Paulhus, & Hare, 2007).
Much like the clinical version (i.e., Narcissistic Personality Disorder), subclinical narcissism involves grandiosity, as well as entitlement and a sense of superiority; however, this grandiose narcissism is only one part of the construct. Another important aspect involves narcissistic vulnerability, which refers to a vulnerable self-concept and efforts at self-enhancement (Morf & Rodenwalt, 2001). While grandiose narcissism tends to be emphasized in much of the Dark Triad literature, vulnerable narcissism appears to be relevant in many areas of emotional and interpersonal functioning. Subclinical narcissism has been linked to aggression (Bushman & Baumeister, 1998), online antisocial behavior (Carpenter, 2012), and a number of other variables of interest.
Machiavellianism is probably the least understood of the Dark Triad traits. It refers to a manipulative interpersonal style named for Niccolò Machiavelli (Christie & Geis, 1970). In The Prince (1513), Machiavelli described several behaviors most of us would regard as immoral (e.g., lying, deceit, and even murder) as effective strategies for a ruler to maintain power. Machiavellianism is perhaps best characterized as the perspective that the ends justify the means. People high in Machiavellian traits are described as cynical on morality, focused on personal gain, and willing to manipulate and exploit others to achieve their goals (Jones & Paulhus, 2009). Machiavellian personality traits have been linked to online relational aggression (Abell & Brewer, 2014) and a number of other antisocial behaviors.
At the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, our primary interest with regard to the Dark Triad traits involves their role in nonclinical populations (i.e., individuals in the community who are not currently receiving treatment for diagnosed personality disorders or other mental health problems) of emerging adults. That is, we are interested in how individual differences in scores on subclinical measures of Dark Triad traits relate to a variety of socially undesirable behaviors (e.g., overt and relational aggression, cyber aggression, dysfunctional anger expression, jealousy, academic dishonesty, aggressive driving) among young adults.
Abell, L., & Brewer, G. (2014). Machiavellianism, self-monitoring, self-promotion and relational aggression on Facebook. Computers in Human Behavior, 36, 258-262.
Bushman, B. J. & Baumeister, R. F. (1998). Threatened egotism, narcissism, self-esteem, and direct and displaced aggression: Does self-love or self-hate lead to violence? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75, 219-229.
Carpenter, C. J. (2012). Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and anti-social behavior. Personality and Individual Differences, 52, 482-486.
Christie R. & Geis F. L. (1970). Studies in Machiavellianism. New York: Academic Press.
Furnham, A., Richards, S. C., & Paulhus, D. L. (2013). The dark triad of personality: A 10 year review. Social and Personality Compass, 7, 199-216.
Hare, R. D. (2003). Manual for the Revised Psychopathy Checklist (2nd Edition). Toronto, ON, Canada: Multi-Health Systems.
Hare, R. D., & Neumann, C. S. (2009). Psychopathy: Assessment and forensic implications. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 54, 791-802.
Jonason, P. K., Lyons, M., Bethell, E. J., & Ross, R. (2013). Different routes to limited empathy in the sexes: Examining the links between the Dark Triad and empathy. Personality and Individual Differences, 54, 572-576.
Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2014). Introducing the Short Dark Triad (SD3): A brief measure of dark personality traits. Assessment, 21, 28-41.
Jones, D.N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2009). Machiavellianism. In M.R. Leary & R.H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior. New York: Guilford.
Kokkinos, C. M., Antoniadou, N., & Markos, A. (2014). Cyber-bullying: An investigation of the psychological profile of university student participants. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 35, 204-214.
Morf, C. C. & Rhodewalt, F. (2001). Unraveling the paradoxes of narcissism: a dynamic self-regulatory processing model. Psychological Inquiry, 12, 4, 177-196.
Paulhus, D. L., & Williams, K. (2002). The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy. Journal of Research in Personality, 36, 556-568.
Williams, K. M., Paulhus, D. L. & Hare, R. D. (2007). Capturing the four-factor structure of psychopathy in college students via self-report. Journal of Personality Assessment, 88, 205-219.
We are interested in learning about how your interests fit with ours and the sort of research you’d like to pursue during your graduate training. While providing a brief summary your prior research experience can be helpful, most of this information is likely to be reflected in your CV and letters of recommendation. Thus, we encourage you to use your answer to this question to demonstrate your fit with the lab.
Due to the competitive nature of the admissions process, the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program asks applicants to identify more than one faculty member they would be interested in working with. This is what the part of the question asking about one’s flexibility with one’s 2nd choice faculty member refers to. Applicants who clearly demonstrate fit with their 2nd choice faculty member are likely to be evaluated more positively by that faculty member. In some cases, this can increase the chances of that applicant being interviewed and ultimately receiving an offer of admission.
To sum up, applicants interested in being considered by our lab are encouraged to describe how their research interests fit with ours. Those with diverse interests who would be open to working in another lab are also encouraged to address how their interests may fit with another faculty member.
Here’s the abstract from the upcoming paper:
The citation is as follows:
Relational aggression has been linked to many forms of psychological maladjustment. Identifying the personality traits associated with the perpetration of relational aggression offers promise in improving our ability to understand, prevent, and treat relationally aggressive behaviors. Much of the research to date has utilized the Five Factor Model; however, the HEXACO model of personality (Ashton et al., 2004) may offer some advantages in studying aggression. Moreover, the manipulative and often covert nature of relational aggression suggests that the Dark Triad personality traits are likely to be relevant. This study explored the utility of the HEXACO model and Dark Triad in predicting relational aggression in college students’ (N = 442) peer relationships. Honesty-Humility, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness predicted proactive and reactive relational aggression, and Emotionality also predicted reactive relational aggression. Pathological narcissism and psychopathy predicted proactive and reactive relational aggression while taking respondent gender and the full HEXACO model into account, with vulnerable narcissism and psychopathy serving as positive predictors and grandiose narcissism serving as a negative predictor. Findings support the utility of both the HEXACO and Dark Triad models in understanding peer relational aggression among emerging adults.
Knight, N. M., Dahlen, E. R., Bullock-Yowell, E., & Madson, M. B. (in press). The HEXACO model of personality and Dark Triad in relational aggression. Personality and Individual Differences.
There is reason to believe that social and emotional intelligence are positive predictors of relational aggression, and some have suggested that certain levels of these forms of intelligence might be necessary for relational aggression to occur (or at least to be successful). At the same time, there is no reason to think that social or emotional intelligence would be sufficient to produce relational aggression. Thus, we plan to examine the degree to which psychopathic traits might inform our understanding of this relationship.
Congratulations to Savannah on a successful thesis proposal!
So while these opportunities are available, how many of our students actually take advantage of them? Not surprisingly, this depends on each student and his or her professional goals. Most of our doctoral students present work based on their master’s thesis and/or dissertation at professional conferences. Some go beyond this and present the results of collaborative research projects, literature reviews, or more clinically focused work as well. With more available conferences than any of us have the time or money to attend, these opportunities are plentiful. Similarly, most of our doctoral students will submit manuscripts based on their master’s thesis and dissertation for publication in peer-reviewed journals. Students seeking academic or other research-oriented careers will typically be involved in additional research projects that aim to produce publishable manuscripts.
Similar opportunities exist for master’s students; however, their condensed time frame is often a limiting factor. Because master’s students have a shorter program of study and do not have the same research requirements as doctoral students, it is less likely that they will complete independent research projects comparable to a thesis. For most master’s students, getting involved in collaborative research projects makes more sense and can still result in presentation and/or publication opportunities. For especially talented master’s students aiming to apply to doctoral programs, independent research projects can sometimes be arranged based on fit and available resources.
We are interested in admitting a Counseling Psychology doctoral student for the Fall 2018 term. If you are planning to apply to doctoral programs in Counseling Psychology and you have research interests that overlap with ours, we hope you will consider submitting an application to the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Students interested in applying should see our page on joining the lab and consult the information available on the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program website (see Admissions Information). The application deadline is December 1, and now is the time when most applicants are thinking about where they plan to apply and working on their applications.
As is the case with most doctoral programs, the application process is highly competitive. Faculty start with an extensive review of the written application materials and work to identify a select group of the top applicants. Those selected are then invited to visit the Hattiesburg campus for in-person interviews. Interviewees have the opportunity to meet the program faculty, learn more about the lab, discuss research ideas with Dr. Dahlen, and interact with many current graduate students.
Growing up in a military home, Amber moved around a lot. She started her post-secondary studies at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. At the end of this two-year program, she received an Associate of Arts in preparatory science and transferred to the University Southern Mississippi in 2016. She wanted to carry on the tradition of her father and brothers and also stay close to home.
Over the summer, Amber presented a poster on jealously and relationship satisfaction in romantic relationships at the MSU research symposium. Currently, she enjoys working with the Dark Triad in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab. Looking forward, Amber wants to learn more about child psychology and child development research.
Amber hopes to attend to graduate school at the master’s level in counseling or clinical psychology. She is currently engaging in the process of learning more about graduate school programs. She says that the process has been straightforward but challenging. She is actively seeking advice from professors and has found a variety of helpful responses. She is actively working on graduate school applications, GRE, letters of recommendations, and trying to find programs that fit with her interests. Ultimately, Amber is interested in a career as a therapist with the hope of owning her own practice. During her free time, she enjoys baking and reading science fiction/thriller novels.
- Post contributed by Adijah Battle
Ashley is from Starkville, Mississippi and graduated from Starkville High School. She chose to attend Southern Miss after touring the campus. She said that she fell in love with the atmosphere and discovered that she felt at home on the campus.
In addition to her work with the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab, Ashley is also gaining research experience in child development through another lab in the department. She is interested in family cycles and overall mental health (stress in particular). She hopes to gain more insight and research experience that comes with working in research labs.
Ashley hopes to attend graduate school and pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology. She said that she's getting an early start in thinking about the graduate school application process and that it is much better to plan ahead than to start late. Thus, she is getting involved in research now, working to maintain her grades, engaging with her professors, and getting involved in activities like the Psychology Club to learn more about the field of psychology. Ultimately, she wants to be a clinical psychologist working in private practice. Ashley’s hobbies include working at the Payne Center, hanging out with friends and at the Baptist student union, fishing, and research.
- Post contributed by Adijah Battle
Morgan grew up in Madison, Mississippi and completed her undergraduate work in psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. During her time as an undergraduate, she worked in the Personality Assessment and Clinical Outcomes (PACO) Lab. This work led to a poster presentation at the Undergraduate Symposium on Research and Creative Activity on the Five Factor Model of personality and treatment preference.
When asked about what drew her to the Counseling Psychology Master's Program, Morgan said she liked the program atmosphere and the people involved in the program. She also noted that she liked the program's emphasis on diversity and the flexibility of the program (i.e., students receive training that prepares them to pursue a variety of different career and/or academic pathways).
When it comes to research, Morgan's interests include dark personality traits, forensic psychology, and juvenile offenders. Morgan’s aims to pursue a doctorate in counseling psychology and hopes to work with adolescents and/or juvenile offender populations. During her free time, Morgan’s hobbies include hanging out with friends, enjoying time with her dog, and singing.
When asked about what advice she would offer to potential applicants, Morgan said that it is important to start the process of preparing for graduate school applications as early as possible to make sure one meets all the deadlines. Good advice!
- Post contributed by Adijah Battle
Their work led to a poster presentation at Mississippi State University’s Summer Undergraduate Research Symposium (poster available here as a .pdf file). Both Amber and Philip were able to attend the symposium at Mississippi State and found it to be a positive experience. Congratulations to both on their success.
The book is easy to recommend to anyone wanting to improve their knowledge of dark personality research. Here are a few of the things I found most impressive:
- Many of the most influential researchers in the dark personality literature contributed chapters to the book, providing an excellent representation of the scope and complexity of this area of study.
- Readers are presented with information on both the adaptive and maladaptive features of each dark personality trait. This provides important context and helps one reconcile what can sometimes appear to be inconsistent findings in the literature.
- Dark personality traits are addressed in the larger context of broad models of personality (e.g., the Five Factor Model). Again, this helps readers new to the dark personality literature understand how these traits fit into systems with which they will be more familiar.
- The book is organized using some of the recent work on pathological personality traits reflected in DSM-5. This is effective here because it helps the reader group variables that might not initially seem connected into broader domains.
Believe it or not, working as an RA in a Psychology research lab can be valuable for a number of other reasons too. Here are just a few examples that come to mind:
- Some students do not discover their passion for research until they have the opportunity to be part of a research lab.
- Obtaining research experience allows students to develop the sort of portfolio of skills many employers are seeking (e.g., knowledge of the research process, interpersonal awareness, the ability to contribute to a team, effective problem solving, organization and time management).
- By working as an RA, a student provides a faculty member with the opportunity to get to know him or her in a meaningful way, and this often results in a more relevant letter of recommendation (i.e., the professor is able to address the student’s potential to succeed in the research-related aspects of graduate training and/or address many of the job-relevant skills noted above).
- Being part of a research lab often gives students a clearer understanding of the research process, and this can translate into improved performance in Psychology courses.
- Working as an RA in a lab that includes graduate students provides undergraduates with an accurate idea of what it is like to be a graduate student, what to expect from graduate training, and additional opportunities for mentoring.
- Students can sometimes opt to earn elective course credit by working as an RA in a lab.
Undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus can learn more about joining the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab and explore other opportunities for gaining research experience in the department.
Here are five tips for staying safe in anger-provoking driving situations:
- Don't take it personally. It often seems like other drivers must be deliberately messing with you, but this is rarely the case. The "rude" driver who veered into your lane probably did not see you. The person merging onto the freeway slowly enough that you had to brake wasn't waiting for you on the on-ramp just to ruin your day. Others' bad driving is rarely aimed at you.
- Avoid name-calling. Even if you manage to refrain from yelling out your window at other drivers, research suggests that calling them inflammatory names (even just to yourself) makes you more angry rather than less angry.
- Let go of the need to be right. Your safety is more important than being right. Maybe you were the first to arrive at the 4-way stop and you have the right-of-way. If the other vehicle blasts through the intersection anyway, the fact that it was your turn will not be much consolation when it hits you.
- Recognize that if someone else is determined to have an accident, you don't need to be part of it. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to slow down and let the other driver pass you. Maybe the other driver is intoxicated or playing with his or her smartphone. These are drivers you do not want to be close to. If they have an accident, it is better that it does not involve you.
- Remember that it is not your job to punish other drivers. We have all had the urge to honk, slow down in front of someone tailgating us, cut in front of another driver, or make obscene gestures to "teach them a lesson." This sort of retaliation may feel good, but it increases the likelihood that you could end up the target of someone else's road rage.
We are currently working on a paper based on Daniel’s master’s thesis that examines the contribution of social anxiety to the Five Factor Model (Costa & McCrae, 1992) of personality in understanding relational aggression in college students.
Congratulations to Daniel on the new job!
If you have any ideas about content you’d like to see on the new page, let us know.
What is a master’s project? When students with master’s degrees who did not complete a formal master’s thesis during their master’s program are admitted to the Counseling Psychology Doctoral Program, they complete a master’s project before beginning work on their dissertations. A master’s project involves the completion of an independent research project that is similar to a master’s thesis but does not usually involve a thesis committee. These projects provide students with an opportunity to progress through the entire research process before taking on a dissertation. In addition to familiarizing the student with all aspects of research, they provide faculty with a clear sense of the student’s strengths and weaknesses, leading to the identification of appropriate training goals.
Taylor did a fantastic job with her master’s project, and we anticipate that she will have little difficulty transitioning into her dissertation work.
Congratulations to Morgan on her admission to the master’s program! We are looking forward to working with you.
Congratulations to Taylor on the admission!
In spite of the increased interest received by relational aggression among emerging adults, the lack of psychometrically sound measures appropriate for this age range continues to be an important barrier. Caitlin’s dissertation, Validation of the Young Adult Relational Aggression Scale (YARAS), attempted to confirm the hypothesized factor structure of a new measure as well as assess its reliability and validity in a college student sample.
Although she was able to identify a suitable factor structure, doing so required her to correlate several items and meant that the predicted structure could not technically be confirmed (i.e., the confirmatory procedures became exploratory). Nevertheless, we learned a great deal about the construct and the new measure that should inform future work aimed at refining the measure.
Congratulations to Caitlin on completing this important milestone!
Caitlin is currently completing her predoctoral internship at the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System in Florida and has accepted a postdoctoral fellowship next year at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.
Both vulnerable narcissism and emotion dysregulation have been linked to suicidality in previous studies; however, relatively little is known about the relationship of these factors to self-injurious behavior and self-criticism in non-clinical settings. Philip’s study will use a college student sample and is anticipated to generate some useful information about the important topic of college student mental health.
Congratulations to Philip on the successful proposal!
As an undergraduate, Skylar was involved in two different research labs. The Stress Physiology in Teens (SPIT) Laboratory led her to examine the interplay between stress exposure, biological trajectories, and adolescent development in understanding why certain individuals develop psychopathology. Her time with the Youth Social and Emotional Development Laboratory was spent identifying social, emotional, and cognitive factors related to the development and maintenance of aggressive behavior in youth.
She applied to Southern Miss because the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab overlapped with her research interests in aggression. Skylar recently proposed her master’s thesis, The Role of Emotion Regulation in the Relationship between Trait Anger and Aggression, and is currently collecting data. She hopes to research other forms of aggression, such as sexual aggression. Skylar’s career interests include working in a maximum-security prison, as well as a psychiatric unit or major hospital.
When asked for advice concerning potential future applicants to our program, Skylar mentioned the importance of gaining research experience, as it can be helpful in defining a career path and in assessing which graduate programs best align with one’s personal research interests.
Congratulations to Caitlin!
Congratulations to Niki on the successful match!
Currently, Taylor is conducting a research project designed to evaluate one of the few published measures of cyber aggression suitable for use with college student samples. She is using it to examine various predictors of cyber aggression (also known as electronic aggression). Predictors under investigation include trait aggressiveness and several dark personality traits (e.g., psychopathy, narcissism, spitefulness, sadism). Not only is she well-positioned to make a meaningful contribution to the literature in this area, but she is helping to pave the way for future students in the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab to study cyber aggression.
Taylor's plans for the future involve pursuing her doctorate in Counseling Psychology, and she is applying to doctoral programs this year. Her career goals include working as a director/supervisor at an inpatient or residential treatment facility.
When asked what advice she might have for future applicants to the Counseling Psychology master's program at the University of Southern Mississippi, Taylor mentioned not to be afraid of asking questions or seeking clarification. It is important to remember, she said, that many people can relate to the inevitable anxiety surrounding the admission process and are eager to help.
As an undergraduate, Michael worked on an independent research project focusing on the behavioral effects of a college smoking ban. His curiosity in research and counseling continued to evolve by studying abroad, ultimately guiding him to apply to the master's program at Southern Miss.
Michael aims to become a licensed professional counselor upon graduation and is interested in a career in community mental health. As such, he hopes to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the Community Counseling and Assessment Clinic, our program's in-house training clinic where both master's and doctoral students obtain much of their practicum experience under the supervision of program faculty. This experience, along with his coursework in the master's program, will prepare Michael to pursue licensure.
In addition to completing a literature review on alcohol-related aggression, one of the ways Michael has been assisting the Anger and Traffic Psychology Lab is working with his peers to write biographical statements (just like this one) for our website. This is something we have been talking about doing for some time because we think it is helpful information for potential applicants to have. With Michael taking the lead on it, we are finally doing it!
When asked for advice concerning potential future applicants to our program, Michael voiced the importance of taking the time to create a well-crafted personal statement that best represents what an applicant has to offer to the program and makes a case for why the applicant is a good fit with the program.