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In psychology, Machiavellianism refers to the name of a personality trait created by psychologist Richard Christie, centered on deceitfulness, an absence of morality, a lack of emotional attachment to others, and cynicism.[1][2] Though unrelated to Machiavelli's political theory, the construct was named after it as some of his phrases were used as test items.


Political thoughtEdit

Psychological termEdit

Machiavellianism is a term that social, forensic and personality psychologists use to describe a person's tendency to be unemotional, lacking in concern conventional morality and more inclined to deceive and manipulate others.[3]

In the 1960s, Richard Christie and Florence L. Geis wanted to study those who manipulated others, and developed a test using truncated statements from Machiavelli's works as items, naming the construct "Machiavellianism".[4] Their Mach - IV test, a twenty-statement personality survey, became the standard self-assessment tool of Machiavellianism. People scoring high on the scale (high Machs) tend to endorse manipulative statements such as, "Never tell anyone the real reason you did something unless it is useful to do so".

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.[5] Their basic results have been widely replicated.[6] Measured on the Mach - IV scale, males score, on average, slightly higher on Machiavellianism than females.[5][7] A recent behavioral genetics study noted that Machiavellianism has both significantly genetic and environmental influences.[8][9] There has also been some research on Machiavellianism in the youth.[10][11]


A 1992 review described Machiavellian motivation 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.[12][13]


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.[14] Recently, new research gives support to a contrary viewpoint.[15]

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.[16] Both emotional empathy and emotion recognition have been shown to have negative correlations with Machiavellianism.[17][18]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.[12]

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,[19][20] although recent research suggests that while Machiavellianism and psychopathy overlap, they are distinct personality constructs.[12][21] Psychopathy differs from Machiavellianism mainly in impulsivity, a lack of long term planning and self control.[1] A greater tendency to lie, being one of the core aspects of the Machiavellian character, has been tightly connected to psychopathy.

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).[1] However, Machiavellianism correlates more highly with the Honesty-humility dimension of the six-factor HEXACO model than with any of the Big Five dimensions.[12] 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.[12] 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.[12][22]

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[7] 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 tactics.[23] 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.[24][25] 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. Although no research has so far identified the causal direction of the two-dimensions, it is likely that the views generate and validate the use of Machiavellian tactics.

In the workplaceEdit

Machiavellianism in the workplace refers to individuals who behave in a cold and manipulative manner in business settings. It is an increasingly studied phenomenon. Machiavellianism has been studied extensively over the past 40 years as a personality characteristic that shares features with amoral and manipulative leadership tactics. It has in recent times been adapted and applied to the context of the workplace and organizations by many writers and academics.

Oliver James wrote about the effects of Machiavellianism and other dark triadic personality traits in the workplace, the others being narcissism and psychopathy.[26]

Workplace behaviors central to this concept are centered around using aggressive and exploitative means in order to ensure self success.[27]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ "PsycNET". Retrieved 2019-02-25.
  3. ^ Christie, Richard; Geis, Florence L. (2013-10-22). Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press. ISBN 9781483260600.
  4. ^ Christie, Richard "On being detached about Machiavellianism"
  5. ^ a b Christie, R. & Geis, F. (1970) "Studies in Machiavellianism". NY: Academic Press.[page needed]
  6. ^ 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 2019-05-09). ISBN 978-1-135-43234-8.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ Furnham, Adrian; Richards, Steven C.; Paulhus, Delroy L. (2013). "The Dark Triad of Personality: A 10 Year Review". Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 7 (3): 199–216. doi:10.1111/spc3.12018. ISSN 1751-9004.
  10. ^ Richard Christie, Machavellianism and Manipulative behavior in Children
  11. ^ "Contributions of psychopathic, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and sadistic personality traits to juvenile delinquency". Retrieved 2019-04-02.
  12. ^ 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.
  13. ^ Spielberger, Charles D.; Butcher, James N. (2013-10-31). Advances in Personality Assessment. Routledge. ISBN 9781317844013.
  14. ^ Jean M. Phillips; Stanley M. Gully (14 February 2013). Organizational Behavior: Tools for Success. Cengage Learning. pp. 85–. ISBN 978-1-133-95360-9.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Christie, Richard; Geis, Florence L. (2013-10-22). Studies in Machiavellianism. Academic Press. ISBN 9781483260600.
  18. ^ Rauthmann, John F.; Will, Theresa (2011). "Proposing a Multidimensional Machiavellianism Conceptualization". Retrieved 2019-03-20.
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ 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.
  21. ^ "ScienceDirect". Retrieved 2019-03-15.
  22. ^ read, Ben Taylor Last updated: 8 Oct 2018~ 5 min (2016-11-24). "Machiavellianism, Cognition, and Emotion: Understanding how the Machiavellian Thinks, Feels, and Thrives". Psych Central. Retrieved 2019-03-19.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ 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.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ James O Office Politics: How to Thrive in a World of Lying, Backstabbing and Dirty Tricks (2013)
  27. ^ Calhoon, Richard P. (1969). "Niccolo Machiavelli and the Twentieth Century Administrator". The Academy of Management Journal. 12 (2): 205–212. doi:10.2307/254816. ISSN 0001-4273. JSTOR 254816.

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