The social salience of students’ sub-clinical psychopathic personality

Liam Satchell, Dominic Pearson

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We investigated the ability of undergraduate students to detect psychopathic personality traits in their new peers, after engaging in limited, naturalistic contact. Research has demonstrated that personality traits can be socially recognised in others. However, this research has not yet explored the recognition of psychopathic personality traits in newly encountered peers. This is important as some of these traits, such as manipulation, can have important social consequences in forming friendships. At the same time, manipulative tendencies only work best when not seen as such. To study the salience of psychopathic personality traits, undergraduate students (N = 101) took part in a round robin judgment paradigm during their orientation period of university. We found that participants were able to detect the Triarchic Psychopathy Measure’s traits of Boldness and Disinhibition but not Meanness in their groups, using typical social judgments. However, Meanness was the only trait that notably related to judges reporting that they would not make friends with targets who showed more psychopathic personality traits. These results highlight the importance of psychopathic personality traits when students form first impressions and intentions to make friends. Future research should consider the influence of ‘hidden’ meanness even in sub-clinical populations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)229-237
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number1
Early online date8 Dec 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • psychopathic personaility
  • person judgement
  • round robin
  • undergraduate student
  • friendmaking


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