The Effects of Psychopathy and Machiavellianism on Cognitive Dissonance

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The University of Texas at El Paso, 2009 - Antisocial personality disorders - 144 pages
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Psychopathic traits include a lack of guilt, a lack of remorse, callousness and antisocial behaviors such as impulsivity and aggression. The current study examined the effects of psychopathic traits as measured by the Psychopathic Personality Inventory -- Revised: Short Form (PPI-R: SF; Lilienfeld & Widows, 2005) and the Levenson Primary and Secondary Psychopathy Scales (LPSP; Levenson, Kiehl, & Fitzpatrick, 1995), and of Machiavellianism (MACH), as measured by the MACH-IV (Christie & Geis, 1970), on cognitive dissonance in a sample of 164 participants. The induced compliance paradigm of cognitive dissonance was implemented by instructing each participant to complete a boring task inspired by the seminal cognitive dissonance experiment by Festinger and Carlsmith (1959). Afterward, feelings of guilt and psychological unease were induced by asking the participant to mislead a second participant (actually a confederate) by telling him that the task was enjoyable. Participants' level of guilt over telling the lie was experimentally manipulated. Half of the participants were directly and firmly instructed to tell the lie (low perceived choice, low guilt condition), whereas the other half of the participants were politely requested, but not instructed, to tell the lie (high perceived choice, high guilt condition). As predicted, participants low in psychopathy (as measured by the PPI-R: SF and LPSP) exhibited the classic cognitive dissonance effect, whereas participants high in psychopathy did not exhibit the effect. Results for MACH were not significant. The implications of these results are important for cognitive dissonance research because they point to a subset of the population (psychopaths) possibly confounding results of past studies on cognitive dissonance. In addition, the results point to definitive cognitive differences between individuals with varying levels of psychopathy.

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