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Machiavellianism is the political philosophy of the Italian Renaissance diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli, expressed notably in his theoretical and historical writings such as Il Principe (The Prince), and the Discourses on Livy, among other works.[1] The words Machiavellian and Machiavellianism gained popularity in the late 16th century, due to the notoriety of Machiavelli's books.[2][3]

In the field of personality psychology however, "Machiavellianism" (or Mach scale) could also refer to the name given to a psychological trait conceptualized by psychologist Richard Christie, centered on manipulativeness, callousness, and an indifference to morality.[4][5] Since both concepts are unrelated yet have the same name, see the "Psychology" section below for details.


Political thoughtEdit

After his exile from political life in 1512, Machiavelli took to a life of writing, which led to the publishing of his most famous work, The Prince. The book would become infamous for its recommendation for absolute rulers to be ready to act in unscrupulous ways, such as resorting to fraud and treachery, elimination of political opponents, and the usage of fear as a means of controlling subjects.[6] Machiavelli's view that acquiring a state and maintaining it requires evil means has been noted as the chief theme of the treatise.[7][8] He has become infamous for this advice, so much so that the adjective Machiavellian would later on describe a type of politics that is "marked by cunning, duplicity, or bad faith".[9]

While Machiavelli has become widely popular for his work on principalities, his other major work, The Discourses on Livy, focused mainly on republican statecraft, and his recommendations for a well ordered republic. Machiavelli noted how free republics have power structures that are better than principalities. He also notes how advantageous a government by a republic could be as opposed to just a single ruler. However, Machiavelli's more controversial statements on politics can also be found even in his other works.[10][11] For example, Machiavelli notes that sometimes extraordinary means, such as violence, can be used in reordering a corrupt city.[12] In one area, he praises Romulus, who murdered his brother and co-ruler in order to have power by himself to found the city of Rome.[13] In a few passages he sometimes explicitly acts as an advisor of tyrants as well.[14][15][16]

Some scholars have even asserted that the goal of his ideal republic does not differ greatly from his principality, as both rely on rather ruthless measures for aggrandizement and empire.[17]

In one passage of The Prince, Machiavelli subverts the advice given by Cicero to avoid duplicity and violence, by saying that the prince should "be the fox to avoid the snares, and a lion to overwhelm the wolves". It would become one of Machiavelli's most notable statements.[18]

Because cruelty and deception play such important roles in his politics, it is not unusual for related issues—such as murder and betrayal—to rear their heads with regularity.[19]

Machiavelli's own concept of virtue, which he calls "virtù", is original and is usually seen by scholars as different from the traditional viewpoints of other political philosophers.[20] Virtú can consist of any quality at the moment that helps a ruler maintain his state, even being ready to engage in necessary evil when it is advantageous.[21][22]

Due to the treatise's controversial analysis on politics, in 1559, the Catholic Church banned The Prince, putting it on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.

Machiavelli criticized and rejected the classical biblical and Christian thought as he viewed that it celebrated humility and otherworldly things, and thus it made the Italians of his day "weak and effeminate".[23] While Machiavelli's own religious allegiance has been debated, it is assumed that he had a low regard of contemporary Christianity.[24]

Receptions to MachiavelliEdit

In the late 1530's, immediately following the publication of The Prince, Machiavelli's philosophy was seen as an immoral ideology that corrupted European politics. Reginald Pole read the treatise while he was in Italy, and on which he commented: "I found this type of book to be written by an enemy of the human race. It explains every means whereby religion, justice and any inclination toward virtue could be destroyed".[25] Machiavelli's works were received similarly by other popular European authors, especially in Elizabethan England. The French lawyer Innocent Gentillet also levied heavy criticisms against Machiavelli in his 1576 book, Anti-Machiavel: A Discourse Upon the Means of Well Governing.[26]

The English playwrights William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe incorporated their views into some of their works. Shakespeare's titular character, Richard III, refers to Machiavelli in Henry VI, Part III, as the "murderous Machiavel". In The Jew of Malta, "Machevil" is a ghostly caricature of Machiavelli, who brags how much he was right about power, then narrates the play to the audience.[27] Marlowe's last play, The Massacre at Paris (1593) depicts the Duke of Guise and Catherine de' Medici both as Machiavellian plotters, bent on evil from the start.

The Anti-Machiavel is an 18th-century essay by Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and patron of Voltaire, rebutting The Prince. It was first published in September 1740, a few months after Frederick became king.[28]

Denis Diderot, the French philosopher, viewed Machiavellianism as "an abhorrent type of politics" and the "art of tyranny".[29]

Psychological scaleEdit

Machiavellianism is also the name that social and personality psychologists have given to a psychological scale that measures a person's tendency to engage in interpersonal manipulation, unemotional coldness, and indifference to morality.[30]

Origin of the constructEdit

In the 1960s, Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis wanted to study those who manipulated others, and developed a test using a selection of statements, including a few truncated and edited sentences from Machiavelli's works as test items, naming the construct "Machiavellianism" after Machiavelli.[31][32] They wanted to assess whether or not those who were in agreement with the statements would behave differently than others who disagreed, specifically in regards to manipulative actions. Their Mach IV test, a 20-question, Likert-scale personality survey, became the standard self-assessment tool of the Machiavellianism construct. Using their scale, Christie and Geis conducted multiple experimental tests that showed that the interpersonal strategies and behavior of "High Machs" and "Low Machs" differ.[33] People scoring high on the scale (High Machs) tend to endorse manipulative statements, and behave accordingly, contrary to those who score lowly (Low Machs).

Their basic results have been widely replicated.[34] Measured on the Mach - IV scale, males score, on average, slightly higher on Machiavellianism than females.[33][35] A recent behavioral genetics study noted that Machiavellianism has both significantly genetic and environmental influences.[36][37] There has also been extensive research on Machiavellianism in young children and adolescents, via a measure dubbed the "Kiddie Mach" test.[38][39]


A 1992 review described the motivation of those high on the Machiavellianism scale as related to cold selfishness and pure instrumentality, and those high on the trait were assumed to pursue their motives (e.g. sex, achievement, sociality) in duplicitous ways. More recent research on the motivations of high Machs compared to low Machs found that they gave high priority to money, power, and competition and relatively low priority to community building, self-love, and family commitment. High Machs admitted to focusing on unmitigated achievement and winning at any cost.[40][41]


Due to their skill at interpersonal manipulation, there has often been an assumption that high Machs possess superior intelligence, or ability to understand other people in social situations. However, some research has established that Machiavellianism is unrelated to IQ.[42] Recently, new research gives support to a contrary viewpoint.[43]

Furthermore, studies on emotional intelligence have found that high Machiavellianism is usually associated with low emotional intelligence as assessed by both performance and questionnaire measures.[44] Both emotional empathy and emotion recognition have been shown to have negative correlations with Machiavellianism.[45][46] Additionally, research has shown that Machiavellianism is unrelated to a more advanced theory of mind, that is, the ability to anticipate what others are thinking in social situations. If high Machs actually are skilled at manipulating others, this appears to be unrelated to any special cognitive abilities as such, and may simply be due to a greater willingness to engage in manipulation.[40]

Relations with other personality traitsEdit

Machiavellianism is one of the three personality traits referred to as the dark triad, along with narcissism and psychopathy. Some psychologists consider Machiavellianism to be essentially a subclinical form of psychopathy, as they both share manipulative tendencies and cold callousness as their primary attributes.[47][48] Recent research suggests that while Machiavellianism and psychopathy overlap heavily, they are distinct personality constructs.[40][49] Psychopathy differs from Machiavellianism mainly in impulsivity, a lack of long term planning and self control.[4]

Machiavellianism has been found to be negatively correlated with Agreeableness (r = −0.47) and Conscientiousness (r = −0.34), two dimensions of the Big Five personality model (NEO-PI-R).[4] However, Machiavellianism correlates more highly with the Honesty-humility dimension of the six-factor HEXACO model than with any of the Big Five dimensions.[40] Machiavellianism has also been located within the interpersonal circumplex, which consists of the two independent dimensions of agency and communion. Agency refers to motivation to succeed and to individuate the self, whereas communion refers to motivation to merge with others and to support group interests. Machiavellianism lies in the quadrant of the circumplex defined by high agency and low communion.[40] Machiavellianism has been found to lie diagonally opposite from a circumplex construct called self-construal, a tendency to prefer communion over agency. This suggests that people high in Machiavellianism do not simply wish to achieve, they wish to do so at the expense of (or at least without regard to) others.[40][50]

Game theoryEdit

In 2002, the Machiavellianism scale of Christie and Geis was applied by behavioral game theorists Anna Gunnthorsdottir, Kevin McCabe and Vernon L. Smith[35] in their search for explanations for the spread of observed behavior in experimental games, in particular individual choices which do not correspond to assumptions of material self-interest captured by the standard Nash equilibrium prediction. It was found that in a trust game, those with high MACH-IV scores tended to follow homo economicus' equilibrium strategies while those with low MACH-IV scores tended to deviate from the equilibrium, and instead made choices that reflected widely accepted moral standards and social preferences.


Although there have been myriad proposed factor structures, two dimensions emerge most consistently within factor-analytic research - differentiating Machiavellian views from behaviors.[51] Although the Mach-IV scale is unable to reliably capture the two dimensions, a 10-item subset of the scale known as the Two-Dimensional Mach-IV (TDM-V), reproduces the views and tactics dimensions across countries, genders, sample types, and scale category length.[52][53] The "Views" dimension appears to capture the neurotic, narcissistic, pessimistic, and distrustful aspects of Machiavellianism, while the "Tactics" component captures the more unconscientious, self-serving, and deceitful behavioural aspects.

In the workplaceEdit

Machiavellianism is also studied by organizational psychologists, especially those whom study manipulative behaviors in workplace settings. Workplace behaviors associated with this concept include flattery, deceit, coercion, and workplace bullying.[54][55]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Definition of MACHIAVELLIANISM". Retrieved 2018-11-07.
  2. ^ Machiavelli- Encyclopedia Britannica
  3. ^ Five Hundred Years of Italian Scholarship on Machiavelli's Prince
  4. ^ a b c Paulhus, Delroy L.; Williams, Kevin M. (2002). "The Dark Triad of personality: Narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathy". Journal of Research in Personality. 36 (6): 556–563. doi:10.1016/S0092-6566(02)00505-6.
  5. ^ "PsycNET". Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  6. ^ The Prince, especially chapters VIII, XVII, and XVIII
  7. ^ Strauss, Leo; Cropsey, Joseph (2012-06-15). History of Political Philosophy. University of Chicago Press. p. 301. ISBN 9780226924717.
  8. ^ "We shall not shock anyone, we shall merely expose ourselves to good-natured or at any rate harmless ridicule, if we profess ourselves inclined to the old­ fashioned and simple opinion according to which Machiavelli was a teacher of evil." -Leo Strauss, Thoughts on Machiavelli
  9. ^ "Definition of MACHIAVELLIAN". Retrieved 2019-02-26.
  10. ^ Mansfield, Harvey C. (1998-02-25). Machiavelli's Virtue. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226503721.
  11. ^ Mansfield, Harvey C. (2001-04-15). Machiavelli's New Modes and Orders: A Study of the Discourses on Livy. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226503707.
  12. ^ "Niccolo Machiavelli | Biography, Books, Philosophy, & Facts". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  13. ^ "Discourses on Livy: Book 1". Retrieved 2019-02-22.
  14. ^ Strauss, Leo (2014-07-04). Thoughts on Machiavelli. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226230979. pg. 48
  15. ^ Machiavelli, Niccolò, The Discourses on Livy trans. by Harvey Mansfield. Chap 16
  16. ^ See Harvey Mansfield and Nathan Tarcov's essay at the beginning of their translation of The Discourses.
  17. ^ Rahe, Paul A. (2005-11-14). Machiavelli's Liberal Republican Legacy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781139448338.
  18. ^ Skinner, Quentin (2000-10-12). Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191540349.
  19. ^ "Niccolò Machiavelli, The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy".
  20. ^ Mansfield, Harvey C. (1998-02-25). Machiavelli's Virtue. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226503721.
  21. ^ Hulliung, Mark (2017-07-05). Citizen Machiavelli. Routledge. ISBN 9781351528481.
  22. ^ Skinner, Quentin (2000-10-12). Machiavelli: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191540349.
  23. ^ "Discourses on Livy: Book 2 Chapter 2". Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  24. ^ Mansfield, Harvey C. (1998-02-25). Machiavelli's Virtue. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226503721.
  25. ^ Benner, Erica (2013-11-28). Machiavelli's Prince: A New Reading. OUP Oxford. ISBN 9780191003929.
  26. ^ Gentillet, Innocent (2018-10-17). Anti-Machiavel: A Discourse Upon the Means of Well Governing. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 9781532659720.
  27. ^ Project Gutenberg Jew of Malta text
  28. ^ "Anti-Machiavel | treatise by Frederick the Great". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2019-04-16.
  29. ^ Diderot, Denis (ascribed by Jacques Proust). "Machiavellianism." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Timothy Cleary. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2004. Trans. of "Machiavelisme," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 9. Paris, 1765. Accessed 31 March 2015.
  30. ^ Christie, Richard; Geis, Florence L. (2013-10-22). Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press. ISBN 9781483260600.
  31. ^ Christie, Richard "On being detached about Machiavellianism"
  32. ^ Jones, D. N., & Paulhus, D. L. (2009). Machiavellianism. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 93-108). New York, NY, US: The Guilford Press.
  33. ^ a b Christie, R. & Geis, F. (1970) "Studies in Machiavellianism". NY: Academic Press. Page 260
  34. ^ Repacholi, Betty; Slaughter, Virginia (eds.). "Bypassing Empathy: A Machiavellian Theory of Mind and Sneaky Power". Individual Differences in Theory of Mind: Implications for Typical and Atypical Development. pp. 40–67. doi:10.4324/9780203488508-7 (inactive 2019-08-08). ISBN 978-1-135-43234-8.
  35. ^ a b Gunnthorsdottir, Anna; McCabe, Kevin; Smith, Vernon (2002). "Using the Machiavellianism instrument to predict trustworthiness in a bargaining game". Journal of Economic Psychology. 23: 49–66. doi:10.1016/S0167-4870(01)00067-8.
  36. ^ Vernon, Philip A.; Villani, Vanessa C.; Vickers, Leanne C.; Harris, Julie Aitken (2008). "A behavioral genetic investigation of the Dark Triad and the Big 5". Personality and Individual Differences. 44 (2): 445–452. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2007.09.007.
  37. ^ Furnham, Adrian; Richards, Steven C.; Paulhus, Delroy L. (March 2013). "The Dark Triad of Personality: A 10 Year Review". Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 7 (3): 199–216. doi:10.1111/spc3.12018.
  38. ^ Christie, Richard; Geis, Florence L. (2013-10-22). Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press. p. 331. ISBN 9781483260600.
  39. ^ Chabrol, Henri; Van Leeuwen, Nikki; Rodgers, Rachel; Séjourné, Natalène (November 2009). "Contributions of psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic personality traits to juvenile delinquency". Personality and Individual Differences. 47 (7): 734–739. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2009.06.020.
  40. ^ a b c d e f Jones, Daniel N.; Paulhus, Delroy L. (2009). "Chapter 7. Machiavellianism". In Leary, Mark R.; Hoyle, Rick H (eds.). Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior. New York/London: The Guilford Press. pp. 257–273. ISBN 978-1-59385-647-2.
  41. ^ Spielberger, Charles D.; Butcher, James N. (2013-10-31). Advances in Personality Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 9781317844013.
  42. ^ Jean M. Phillips; Stanley M. Gully (14 February 2013). Organizational Behavior: Tools for Success. Cengage Learning. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-133-95360-9.
  43. ^ Kowalski, Christopher Marcin; Kwiatkowska, Katarzyna; Kwiatkowska, Maria Magdalena; Ponikiewska, Klaudia; Rogoza, Radosław; Schermer, Julie Aitken (2018). "The Dark Triad traits and intelligence: Machiavellians are bright, and narcissists and psychopaths are ordinary". Personality and Individual Differences. 135: 1–6. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.06.049.
  44. ^ Austin, Elizabeth J.; Farrelly, Daniel; Black, Carolyn; Moore, Helen (2007). "Emotional intelligence, Machiavellianism and emotional manipulation: Does EI have a dark side?". Personality and Individual Differences. 43: 179–189. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2006.11.019.
  45. ^ Christie, Richard; Geis, Florence L. (2013-10-22). Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press. ISBN 9781483260600.
  46. ^ Rauthmann, John F.; Will, Theresa (30 April 2011). "Proposing a Multidimensional Machiavellianism Conceptualization". Social Behavior and Personality. 39 (3): 391–403. doi:10.2224/sbp.2011.39.3.391.
  47. ^ Miller, Joshua D.; Hyatt, Courtland S.; Maples-Keller, Jessica L.; Carter, Nathan T.; Lynam, Donald R. (2017). "Psychopathy and Machiavellianism: A Distinction Without a Difference?". Journal of Personality. 85 (4): 439–453. doi:10.1111/jopy.12251. PMID 26971566.
  48. ^ McHoskey, John W.; Worzel, William; Szyarto, Christopher (1998). "Machiavellianism and psychopathy". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 74 (1): 192–210. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.74.1.192. PMID 9457782.
  49. ^ Paulhus, Delroy L.; Jones, Daniel N. (2015). "Measures of Dark Personalities". Measures of Personality and Social Psychological Constructs. pp. 562–594. doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-386915-9.00020-6. ISBN 978-0-12-386915-9.
  50. ^ Jones, Daniel N.; Paulhus, Delroy L. (2012), "Differentiating the Dark Triad Within the Interpersonal Circumplex", Handbook of Interpersonal Psychology, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd, pp. 249–267, doi:10.1002/9781118001868.ch15, ISBN 9781118001868
  51. ^ Fehr, B.; Samsom, D.; and Paulhus, D. L., 1992. The Construct of Machiavellianism: Twenty Years Later. In C. D. Spielberger & J. N. Butcher (Eds), Advances in Personality Assessment (Vol 9), pp. 77–116. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
  52. ^ Monaghan, Conal; Bizumic, Boris; Sellbom, Martin (2016). "The role of Machiavellian views and tactics in psychopathology". Personality and Individual Differences. 94: 72–81. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.01.002.
  53. ^ Monaghan, Conal; Bizumic, Boris; Sellbom, Martin (2018). "Nomological network of two-dimensional Machiavellianism". Personality and Individual Differences. 130: 161–173. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2018.03.047.
  54. ^ Calhoon, R. P. (1 June 1969). "Niccolo Machiavelli and the Twentieth Century Administrator". Academy of Management Journal. 12 (2): 205–212. doi:10.2307/254816. JSTOR 254816.
  55. ^ In pursuit of power: The role of authoritarian leadership in the relationship between supervisors’ Machiavellianism and subordinates’ perceptions of supervisory behavior

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