Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Committee Member

Stephen Benning

Second Committee Member

Noelle Lefforge

Third Committee Member

Murray Millar

Fourth Committee Member

Peter Gray

Number of Pages



The Dark Tetrad consists of four socially malevolent personality traits: psychopathy, sadism, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. The current study assessed the relationships among each dimension of the Dark Tetrad and moral decision making using sacrificial moral dilemma vignettes. Participants (n = 212 undergraduates) completed two measures of each of the four Dark Tetrad constructs then read a series of 16 sacrificial moral dilemma vignettes. These dilemmas manipulated whether the participant would personally perform the sacrifice and described either the disgusting or sad emotional consequences of the sacrifice. After each vignette, participants rated the moral rightness/wrongness, moral permissibility, and behavioral intention to sacrifice 1 person in order to save 5 people. Participants’ ratings were not affected by the scenario’s emotion, but they were all lower in scenarios involving personal versus impersonal sacrifices. Machiavellianism correlated with rating the sacrifice as morally permissible, r(212) = .15, p = .030. Psychopathy was additionally associated with being more willing to sacrifice someone, r(212) = .14, p = .040. Surprisingly, individuals who scored high in grandiose narcissism were more willing to sacrifice someone after vignettes that elicited disgust, r(212) = .14, p = .046, but not after vignettes that elicited sadness, r(212) = .06, p = .380, F(1, 210) = 3.98, p = .047. Sadism had no discernible relationships with any ratings. Overall, the results from this study indicate that the Dark Tetrad may be associated with grossly intact but more flexible moral reasoning and behavior.


Clinical psychology; Personality psychology; Psychology; Quantitative psychology



File Format


File Size

.899 MB

Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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